When dolphins attack: Dusty's dust up off the Irish coast

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Story highlights

  • Reports suggest Dusty the dolphin, found on the west coast of Ireland, has attacked swimmers
  • A woman was hospitalized last Sunday -- the fourth incident since May
  • Authorities are now erecting warning signs around Doolin Harbor, County Clare
  • The bottlenose dolphin is listed as an endangered species

She's a charming cetacean who one minute will allow you to put your arm around her -- and the next leave you nursing injuries. As swimmers off the west coast of Ireland are finding out, you don't mess with Dusty the dolphin.

Now authorities have been forced to erect signs around Doolin Harbor, County Clare, after a woman was hospitalized last Sunday by the feisty bottlenose dolphin -- the fourth such incident since May.

Dusty has a checkered history in the area. First spotted in the waters off the coast of County Clare in 2000, reports began to surface as far back as 2004 that she was a little temperamental. According to media reports, one diver even claimed that Dusty had tried to drown her.

Officials say that a record has never been kept of precisely how many incidents Dusty has been involved in -- but they believe that the number has escalated this year. Village suggest this could be because Dusty moved to Doolin Harbour -- which is much more heavily populated with swimmers than her previous hunting ground -- back in 2011.

In the latest incident, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group reports that Dusty rammed a woman in the abdomen resulting in her hospitalization. It's only the latest in a series of incidents, the group says, with one woman having to be flown back to Germany via air ambulance as a result of her injuries.

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The IWDG also warns that pursuing Dusty could also result in an injury or even a fatality. And don't even think about trying to take her picture. As one sign states: "If she does grab a camera etc, let her have it, or she might ram you or hit you with her tail."

Clare County Council has now commissioned the IWDG to produce advisory posters warning people not to approach Dusty. It has also asked lifeguards to put out red warning flags whenever Dusty is spotted in the area.

But beyond that there's little else the authorities can do: the bottlenose dolphin -- which can grow up to 10-feet long -- is an endangered species and is protected under law.

Swimmers on the west coast of Ireland -- beware.