The NOAA announced that a suspect has admitted to shooting a dolphin with a hunting arrow last month.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement identified the shooter as a juvenile. Due to the suspect’s age, their details or any pending criminal charges have not been released to the public.
The NOAA confiscated the compound bow allegedly used to shoot the dolphin and released photos of it on their website. They also obtained written confessions from the suspect. Alabama and Florida conservation officers and the Escambia County Sherriff’s Office assisted the NOAA in the process.
According to the suspect’s confession, the dolphin was shot in Florida state waters in late November, before being found in Orange Beach, Ala. on Dec. 6. An earlier necropsy found the animal lived at least five days before dying from the arrow wound.
The shooting of the dolphin and the gruesome nature of its death incensed the local community, animal activists, and sportsmen across the nation, who rallied to find the perpetrator. Several businesses conservation groups offered more than $24,000 for information regarding the dolphin’s death. The NOAA credited public and media attention for helping to advance the investigation.
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It is illegal to kill, harm, feed, or harass a wild dolphin under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Violators can be published with up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per incident. The agency has also repeatedly encouraged people to abstain from feeding or approaching dolphins, which could familiarize them with humans and place them in harmful situations.
The NOAA has still not received a substantial tip on the death of a pregnant dolphin which was shot with a handgun and killed in Florida before Thanksgiving. Individuals with information on the incident are urged to call the NOAA’s enforcement office in Niceville, Fla., at 1-850-729-8628 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously, though information leading to an arrest and prosecution is eligible for a $2,500 reward.