The federal government is stepping up its investigation into the violent deaths of two dolphins killed in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agents report that anglers are often known to kill dolphins, which they see as competition for fish. But the NOAA reports two dolphin deaths in two weeks is unusual, and is asking for the public’s assistance in finding the culprits.
The first dolphin was found on Nov. 21, on Miramar Beach, Fla. A necropsy revealed the dolphin was pregnant and only weeks away from delivering a baby. She was killed by a gunshot wound from a small-caliber weapon.
A second dolphin was discovered on Orange Beach, Ala. this month, with a hunting arrow still proceeding from its side. Investigators believe the dolphin may have lived for as long as five days before dying from an infection caused by the arrow wound.
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So far, NOAA investigators say have received a few tips but could use further information, which is why they’re reaching out to the community. The charity, Whale Dolphin Conservation Society, is offering a $2,500 reward for information on the pregnant dolphin’s death. Several organizations have also contributed towards a $20,000 reward for information related to the death of the dolphin killed with an arrow.
In addition to seeking out a suspect, the NOAA is urging the public to help prevent further dolphin deaths by not feeding the marine mammals. Dolphins that are fed often become accustomed to humans and may approach boats where they place themselves in dangerous situations. Many dolphins have even learned to remove bait and catch from fishing gear, angering fisherman who sometimes retaliate by killing the animals.
Those who feed or harm dolphins are in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Perpetrators can be punished with $100,000 in fines or up to a year in jail per violation, and up to $11,000 in civil penalties.
The NOAA is urging anyone with information on the dolphin deaths to immediately call NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement at (850)729-8628 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.
Reports can be made anonymously.