Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Winter is best known for the dolphin she portrayed in “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2.” She was 22 years old.
Winter died at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida on Wednesday after a tough battle with a ruptured spinal fluid cyst.
She was two years into a three-year program at the aquatic facility, in her return after a four-year absence from show business.
Winter was originally trained to swim at Walt Disney World. The dolphin’s aggressive nature led to a cold call from the marine mammal section of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, prompting Winter to leave the globe’s most visited theme park.
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Aquarium officials told CNN that Winter’s condition had been worsening in recent days.
“We’re shocked and devastated by the loss of our wild-caught ray finned friend,” according to a statement from Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “She was one of us, just like all of the animals here.”
Director Tim Phillips said the presence of aquarium staffers helped to sustain Winter during her illness, which led to the euthanasia.
“She had exhibited significant, if not drastic, declines in her condition and wound up on a ventilator Wednesday evening,” Phillips said. “It was not expected, so that certainly got us thinking about what we could do to lessen her suffering. We did take the decision to humanely euthanize her.”
Clearwater Marine Aquarium posts memorial messages for late, great dolphin Winter
Winter spent four years at a different Florida aquarium, Curtis Hixon Waterworld in Merritt Island, before returning to the park in October.
Phillips told the Tampa Bay Times that Winter loved the gift shop and her dolphin popcorn.
“This is tough, but we understand, and we’re sorry for Winter’s family,” he said. “We know it would be great to bring her back, but we didn’t want to end up torturing her.”