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Who’s shooting or stabbing dolphins in Florida? Investigators want to find out.

A $20,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to the capture of the people responsible for the two most recent dolphin deaths.
One of two dolphins found dead in Florida recently of gunshot or stab wounds. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
One of two dolphins found dead in Florida recently of gunshot or stab wounds. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
Published Feb. 11

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.

Related: A bottlenose dolphin was found impaled with a spear in Florida. Now a $38,000 reward is being offered for information about the killer.

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.

Related: A Pregnant Dolphin. A Fatal Gunshot. A Disturbing Trend.

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.


One of two dolphins found dead recently in Florida from gunshot or stab wounds. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]


  1. Debbie and her husband Michael, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, fish from the Dunedin Causeway Thursday. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission extended the period of catch and release for several species of fish along the west coast of Florida.
  2. A slurry of dead fish, the result of Red Tide, moved out of Clearwater Harbor on the north side of Sand Key Park during a 16-month-long algae bloom. So many fish were killed that the state is limiting anglers to catch-and-release when it comes to snook, redfish and sea trout.  [Times photo (2018) by Douglas R. Clifford]
  3. A pair of wood storks, left, and a large group of white ibis rest and feed in a wetland area off Loop Road in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Florida is home to more wetlands than any other state except Alaska. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2008)]
  4. Pasco County commissioners introduced an ordinance Tuesday governing upkeep of empty property after residents complained about the condition of the Links Golf Club in Hudson, which closed in June 2019.
  5. Rep. Blaise Ingoglia on the floor of the Florida House in 2017. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  6. In this radar image from the National Weather Service's Key West facility, a massive flock of migratory birds is seen moving north early Monday. The green/yellow objects are biological objects flying north over the Keys. The darker blue objects indicate rain.
  7. These marine mammals were named "right whales" because they were considered by whalers to be "the right ones to hunt."
  8. Island Estates, a neighborhood in Clearwater Bay. There are three City Council races on this year's ballot as the city prepares for the realities of climate change.
  9. Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff conduct regular seagrass monitoring to assess the health and diversity of seagrass meadows within the St. Martins Marsh and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves north of Tampa Bay. A state legislator wants to extend the aquatic preserve to all of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

Charlie Shoemaker for The Pew Charitable Trusts
  10. One of two dolphins found dead in Florida recently of gunshot or stab wounds.
  11. Florida stopped providing free juice at welcome centers last year. [Times (2015)]
  12. USF scientist Stephen Hesterberg holds two oyster shells from Crystal River -- one small and modern, the other large and prehistoric. Hesterberg was part of a team of scientists who have documented how Florida oysters have shrunk since prehistoric times. Climate change may be a factor. [Courtesy of the University of South Florida]