Winter the Dolphin: Her “Tail” Will Live on Forever


People have lived simultaneously with animals for the majority of time without a common way to communicate. And yet when one is forced to leave our lives, it’s incredibly hard to say goodbye. It’s even harder to do so without giving a proper send-off. For so many, Winter, the famous dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, was a source of comfort, and it was absolutely devastating to have to come to terms with her death on November 11, 2021, with minimal warning. Since her rescue in 2005, Winter’s journey has been displayed for the world to see, and many resonated with her triumphant recovery after having to have her tail amputated. It’s rare that such a majestic creature can have such an everlasting impact on people in the way that Winter and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium had. Though she lived for an astonishing 16 years, it’s unbelievably unfortunate to watch her leave so soon.

Winter was first rescued in December 2005 by marine scientists at CMA. She is most known for needing to have her tail amputated after having blood circulation issues due to entanglement in crab trap line. Though she could swim in a side-to-side motion (as opposed to up-and-down), her backbone struggled and she had to learn to swim with a prosthetic. Whether made of blubber and cartilage or silicone and plastic, Winter’s tail never ceased making waves. She grew in popularity, but it wasn’t until the 2011 film Dolphin Tale depicting her journey (where she played herself) that the majority of the world became aware of her inspiring journey. She quickly rose to immense fame and was a source of inspiration for paraplegics and amputees worldwide. Due to her condition, she had to live the rest of her life at CMA, so fans from all over the world would visit CMA to see her in person and form their own personal connections with her.

I had the absolute honor of visiting Winter in 2015 after falling head-over-heels with her upon watching Dolphin Tale with my family. At the very first glimpse of her I was immediately brought to tears. People say you should never meet your heroes since it’s improbable they’ll meet your high expectations of them. But Winter was everything I could’ve hoped for. I felt that special connection with her, one that so many others have felt as well. I may never get to tell her how grateful I am that she overcame such drastic opportunities and helped my 7-year-old self consider marine sciences as a potential career path.

While a private memorial was held on November 20th for CMA community partners and elected officials, the event was live-streamed and can still be viewed on To donate or read more about Winter’s journey, visit: