Emmitsburg Resident Wins Dolphin-Naming Contest

Blair Garrett

Naming pets can be a fun way to form a strong bond between pet and owners.

For MaryAnne Ruffner of Emmitsburg (pictured right), she was able to connect two dolphins spotted in the Potomac River to the whole world.

Over 1,000 new dolphins have been spotted since 2015, and thousands more are thought to live throughout the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. Two in particular, temporarily named D1 and D2, went without official names until a contest was put out to name the pair of bottlenose dolphins.

“I follow WTOP on Facebook, and they posted a contest from the Potomac Conservancy, and it just popped into my head,” Ruffner said. “It was really neat; I was surprised. My love for the ocean and all the ocean creatures is what got me to do it.”

Ruffner has told friends and family of her contest win, but her excitement has yet to be made public until now.

Through more than 3,200 entries across the United States, Ruffner’s pick of Mac and Chessie lead the pack over the two-week contest. The contest concluded in June, where D1 and D2 were given their new, official names: Mac and Chessie.

Mac and Chessie, perhaps named after the fan-favorite dish of mac & cheese, or more likely the PotoMAC and the CHESApeake Bay, ended up taking the contest in a landslide, nabbing 27 percent of the total votes.

Other popular names receiving votes across the country were Cherry and Blossom (16%), Ebb and Flow (14%), Powhatan and Piscataway (10%), and Echo and Radar (10%).

Most named dolphins spotted in the Potomac and Chesapeake over the years are named after historical figures like presidents, members of congress, and first ladies.

Ruffner’s newly named dolphins are a bit different from the rest, but with efforts to clean up the pollution in the Potomac underway, it’s entirely possible for more dolphin-naming contests to pop up in the future.

Over the years, bottlenose dolphins have often migrated up the Potomac basin to raise their calves, leading to mass sightings and more research to be done on these particular mammals. Scientists believe that the efforts to clean up the waters will only lead to more dolphins raising their young even farther north in the Potomac. Bottlenose dolphins have been reportedly spotted as far north as the 301 Harry Nice Memorial Bridge and rumored to have ventured as far north as Georgetown many years ago.

Dolphin watching at the beach has been a favorite activity for a long time for Ruffner.

“I would love to live at the beach and just watch the dolphins,” she said. “We have Tom’s Creek in the backyard, so that’ll do for now.”

For more information on the Potomac Conservancy, visit its website at www.potomac.org, where you can learn or donate to help their projects in cleaning up our waters.

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