Two dolphins -- one with a gunshot wound to the face and another with a stab wound to the head -- have washed up on Florida shores and authorities are now offering a hefty award to help figure out who did this to them and why.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made a grisly discovery last week in Naples, Florida, when a dead dolphin washed ashore with a massive wound to its face.
“The animal was fatally wounded from what appeared to be a bullet and/or a sharp object,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a statement. “Within the same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge experts recovered a dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach, Florida.”
These incidents follow a discovery off of Captiva Island, Florida, last May of a dolphin that was found dead on the coast with a fatal puncture wound to its head.
Officials are now offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction of the person or people responsible for the heinous crimes.
Biologists believe that these cases could stem from humans feeding wild dolphins and are encouraging the public to refrain from doing so.
“Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people and boats with food, which can put them in harmful situations,” the NOAA. “Dolphins may suffer fatal impacts from boat strikes, entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear, and acts of intentional harm like these. You can prevent harm to wild dolphins by not feeding or attempting to feed them.”
The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits anybody from attempting to harass, hunt, kill or feed wild dolphins and is punishable by up to a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration actively enforce these rules and recent prosecutions include a Kansas man being fined $1,250 for feeding a dolphin while on vacation in Florida and a conviction and jail sentence of a fishing captain who made homemade pipe bombs and threw them at dolphins.
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins in the Southeast United States have been shot by guns or arrows or purposefully impaled with fishing spears, including four incidents within the past year.
Anybody with information regarding these cases are encouraged to contact the NOAA and tips may be left anonymously.