Two unusual dolphins that have never been seen in the state have been spotted cruising in waters near Olympia.

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Two unusual dolphins that have never been seen in the state have been spotted cruising in waters near Olympia.

The long-beaked common dolphins were spotted off Boston Harbor, near Olympia, said Annie Douglas, a biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, a marine-mammal research group.

She said the first sighting was from someone riding a paddle board who reported that two dolphins came up to him and seemed very different.

Then the collective began receiving photographs of the unusual dolphins so biologists with the collective went to Boston Harbor and spotted and photographed them.

Douglas said she doesn’t know how many of the dolphins are in Puget Sound but knows there are at least two. Both seem to be young, she said.

The dolphins typically live in Southern California and Mexico, primarily in Baja California.

Douglas is not sure if they can survive in Puget Sound but added that they possibly could adapt to the colder water temperatures and food sources. She said a fisherman contacted her Tuesday to say he’d spotted the dolphins a year ago near Anderson Island which, if true, could mean the animals may be able to adapt to Puget Sound, Douglas said.

“These are animals who aren’t normally here and the chances aren’t very good,” she said. One of the dolphins was spotted with algae growing on its skin, which could lead to infections, she noted.

Long-beaked common dolphins average 6 feet to 8.5 feet in length, but Douglas believes the ones spotted here are on the smaller side. They have distinguished markings, gray to black from the top of the head to the tail. The back is dark and the belly is white and on each side is an hourglass pattern in light gray and yellow.

Douglas believes the dolphins are eating bait fish, which include baby salmon and herring. “There’s food here and they possibly could survive, but we have not had a tropical species survive, except for a group of False Killer Whales.” That was in the 1980s.

The dolphins are active and have been spotted jumping out of the water. They’ve also approached boats, said Douglas. She said there were sightings of the animals in April and May, but the presence of the dolphins wasn’t confirmed until early June.

Douglas doesn’t know what prompted the dolphins to cruise so far from home. She said it might have to do with water temperature or storms. “It’s one of those things that’s hard to say right now,” she said.

Last year two Byrde’s whales, also tropical species, washed up dead in south Puget Sound. They had been spotted injured, likely from a propeller. A bottle-nosed dolphin, also rare in this region, became stranded and died on the Nisqually Delta in January.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com