NAPLES, Fla. – Two dolphins have been found dead on Florida beaches within a week of each other, suffering from what biologists said are likely bullet or stab wounds.
Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found a dead dolphin on a Naples beach late last week. They said the animal was fatally wounded by what looked to be a bullet or sharp object.
Within the same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Experts said they found a dead dolphin with a bullet wound in its left side along Pensacola Beach.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s department of law enforcement is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for tips that lead to a civil penalty or criminal conviction in either case.
In May 2019, a dolphin was found with a fatal puncture wound to its head off Captiva Island. Officials said the investigation into that dolphin’s death is still ongoing.
Biologists believe cases of cruelty like these can stem from people feeding wild dolphins. As the animals learn to associate people and boats with food, they become vulnerable and are more likely to suffer from intentional acts of harm.
Harassing, hunting, killing and feeding wild dolphins, or attempting to do so, is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
According to NOAA, if you come across a stranded, injured, or dead dolphin, you should call (877)-WHALE-HELP to report your location and wait for trained responders. You should never try to intervene or touch the animal.
Anyone with information about the dolphin deaths is asked to call the NOAA enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964.