Winter the dolphin died of twisted intestines, according to necropsy report

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Winter, the beloved prosthetic-tailed dolphin who starred in 2011′s “Dolphin Tale” movie, died from twisted intestines, according to a preliminary necropsy report.

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The bottlenose dolphin died Thursday night at an aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. Officials at Clearwater Marine Aquarium said the cause of death was intestinal torsion, according to a news release. The necropsy was performed Friday morning.

“Essentially, Winter’s intestines had twisted deep in her intestine,” the release stated. “While our team provided Winter the best care and treatment available, the location of the torsion made it impossible to reach through surgery. There was nothing more the team could have done to save her life.”

“We have found there is much to learn as a community about what causes this condition, and what experts found in yesterday’s necropsy means Winter will continue helping scientists and animal rescue teams worldwide better care for these amazing animals,” aquarium officials said in a statement.

Intestinal torsion cuts off blood flow to the intestines and can happen to any species, including humans, aquarium veterinarian Shelly Marquardt told the Tampa Bay Times. Marquardt said tests still are being done but the staff may learn if the loss of Winter’s tail when she was young had any impact, the newspaper reported.

>> Winter the dolphin, star of ‘Dolphin Tale,’ dies at Florida aquarium

On Nov. 1, staff members at the aquarium first noticed that the 16-year-old dolphin “wasn’t acting like her normal self” and appeared to be uninterested in eating.

Winter had been at the aquarium since 2005, after she became entangled in a crab trap line off the coast of Cape Canaveral coast and lost her tail, the Times reported.

Winter’s recovery and the process to get the animal fitted with a prosthetic tail was chronicled in “Dolphin Tale,” starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman. The movie was filmed at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, with Winter starring in the title role.

Winter also appeared in 2014′s “Dolphin Tale 2,” which focused on Hope, another dolphin who has been at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium since she was rescued in 2010.

Staff members are still coming to grips with Winter’s death, Kelly Martin, the aquarium’s vice president of zoological care, said during a news conference Saturday.

“We’re all grieving right now,” Martin said. “It’s nice to feel a sense of community and that community has such reach. It’s national. It’s international.”

The aquarium will host a public memorial event on Saturday, the Times reported.

An Ever Loved website has been created for Winter, which features a timeline of the dolphin’s life events, WFLA reported. It also includes memories and condolences posted by Winter’s fans and a place to contribute a gift to the aquarium.