According to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the first dead dolphin in Naples, Florida the week of Feb. 2, 2020. The dolphin had a wound that appeared to be from a bullet or a sharp object.
During that same week, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge found a second dolphin in Pensacola Beach, Florida. This dolphin had a bullet in its side.
Officials are offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information about these two dolphins.
“These cases can rarely be solved without the public, people coming forward and saying they might have seen something, and we can follow up on that,” stated Tracy Dunn, assistant director of NOAA’s Southeast law enforcement division.
These two dolphin deaths occurred less than a year after another dead dolphin was discovered in Captiva Island, Florida, in May 2019. This dolphin was found with a fatal puncture wound to its head. The investigation into that dolphin’s death is still ongoing.
Biologists believe these deaths could be partially due to people feeding the dolphins. This activity teaches the mammals to associate people with food. This can place them in dangerous situations.
Stacey Horstman, an expert with the NOAA stated: “I think it’s really hard for a lot of people to see how a simple thing like feeding a dolphin can lead to shocking and egregious behavior like this. They don’t think about it when they feed them.”
“Stay approximately 50 yards away from viewing dolphins in the wild, and that’s your best bet for not impacting them. If the dolphin is begging, do not try to engage with that animal in any way.”
The press release stated that at least 29 dolphins have died in the southeastern United States since 2002, with evidence that suggested they were shot or impaled. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, killing, hunting, harassing or feeding dolphins can lead up to $100,000 in fines or up to one year in jail.
Anyone who has any information about the recent deaths is encouraged to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline (800) 853-1964.
By Jeanette Vietti
Yahoo Entertainment: 2 Dolphins Found Dead with Bullet Wounds in Florida, Officials Offering $20K for Information
People: 2 Dolphins Found Dead with Bullet Wounds in Florida, Officials Offering $20K for Information
IBTimes: 2 Dolphins Found Dead With Bullet Wounds
Image Courtesy of TheAnimalDay.org’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License