Two dolphins have been found dead of gunshot or stab wounds in Florida recently, prompting investigators with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to offer $20,000 in reward money for information that leads to the culprits.
A dead dolphin was found off Naples late last week, the victim of a bullet or a sharp object. That same week, another dolphin was found dead with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach, NOAA officials said.
This isn’t the first time this has happened: A dolphin that had been impaled also was found off Captiva Island in May.
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins have been found that were shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects like fishing spears. Four of those deaths have occurred in the last year.
Anyone with information about who’s killing the dolphins can call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be anonymous.
The culprits could be fined up to $100,000 and be sentenced to up to a year in jail for each violation.
NOAA officials also say these cases may have a tie to people who feed dolphins in the wild. Though these people may have good intentions, dolphins fed by people learn to associate people and boats with food. They may then get hit by boats, tied up in fishing gear or fall victim to people who want to harm them, such as in these two recent cases.
For that reason, NOAA says people should never feed dolphins in the wild.
WARNING: THE IMAGE BELOW OF ONE OF THE DEAD DOLPHINS IS GRAPHIC AND MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME READERS: