There's a $38,000 reward on the table for anyone who has information about what happened to a dolphin found impaled in May.
Wildlife officials are offering the reward after the adult male bottlenose dolphin was found dead in the waters off Upper Captiva Island. The animal was alive when impaled in the head with a spear-like object, according to the necropsy officials performed.
The dolphin sustained a six-inch wound in the area around its right eye and there was evidence of hemorrhaging.
At least 26 dolphins have been victims of violence in the Gulf of Mexico since 2002, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries stated in a release. Evidence showed that they had all been either shot by guns or arrows or impaled.
The dolphin killed in May was last seen swimming near fishing boats and with "begging dolphins," animals who beg for handouts from humans.
When wild dolphins are fed by humans, it changes their behavior toward people, boats and fishing gear, said Stacey Horstman, the bottlenose dolphin conservation coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. In fact, it's illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972
They become less wary and approach people, boats and fishing gear with less caution. It can become dangerous when behaviors like begging for food or taking it off fishing gear are not welcomed by people, Horstman said.
Harassing, harming and killing wild dolphins is also illegal under the 1972 law.
Anyone with information can call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.
Contact Dinorah Prevost at email@example.com. Follow @dprevost1.