ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Four dolphins that swam into a St. Petersburg canal over the weekend are now back in Tampa Bay thanks to state wildlife experts and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. 

  • FWC, Clearwater Marine Aquarium help dolphins stuck in canal
  • Officials say dolphins were scared, did not want to go under bridge
  • 14 people formed human chain to coax them back into bay waters

The canal is at 4th Street North and 77th Avenue. Biologists think the dolphins — two mothers and their calves — may have been too scared to swim back under the bridge to get back to the bay.

So on Tuesday, 14 people stood side-by-side to form a human chain. They splashed their hands and moved slowly toward the dolphins, coaxing them to swim under the bridge and out into the bay. 

The plan worked, and the dolphins swam under the bridge and out into open waters. 

Officials said dolphins making their way into canals like this isn't unheard of, but it is pretty rare. 

"We take time to plan; we think about it a little bit. We give them time to leave, give them a few tide cycles and see if whatever is keeping them in there if they decided to leave. They didn't do that. Yesterday was a recon day. We had a boat that tested the depths. We had a boat that went all the way to the bay to test (that), yes there aren't going to be any obstacles," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comission biologist Andy Garrett said. 

And although the brackish water of the canal was not ideal for dolphins, officials said the marine mammals will be OK since they were in there only for a few days. 

Officials are also reminding people that if you see a dolphin, manatee, or sea turtle in distress, you should call FWC