A dolphin was impaled while it was still alive. There’s a $38,000 award for clues

Officials are offering up to $38,000 for anyone who can help find the person who impaled a live bottlenose dolphin in the head, near Cape Coral.
Officials are offering up to $38,000 for anyone who can help find the person who impaled a live bottlenose dolphin in the head, near Cape Coral. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

A $38,000 award is being offered for anyone who can help find the person who impaled a live bottlenose dolphin in the head.

The dolphin was found dead along Upper Captiva Island, a private island community in Southwest Florida about five miles off the Gulf of Mexico.

A necropsy revealed the dolphin was impaled with a “spear-like object.” The wound, “penetrating from above and in front of the right eye,” extended almost six inches toward the top and back of the head and ended at the top of the dolphin’s skull, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

There was also evidence of hemorrhaging, which supports the report’s conclusion that the dolphin was impaled before it died, NOAA said.

The adult male was last seen swimming around fishing boats with “begging dolphins,” a term coined for dolphins who approach boats and beg for food. Officials believe the dolphin, based on the wound’s position, was begging for food when he was stabbed.

The dolphin was recovered in late May by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

If you know anything that can help investigators, call NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964. Callers can remain anonymous. You must give your name and contact information, however, if you wish to be eligible for the reward.

What type of information does NOAA want?

NOAA officials and their agency partners are looking for information that can help lead to:

  • Identifying the person(s) responsible
  • Successful prosecution of those responsible
  • An arrest, conviction or civil penalty assessment

Are these types of violent incidents with dolphins frequent occurrences?

They’re becoming more common, according to officials.

Since 2002, at least 26 dolphins, including this one, have stranded themselves on the shore after being shot by a gun, arrows or impaled with objects, according to NOAA’s Fisheries website. “Begging dolphins” also have a higher chance of getting hit by a boat and risking their chances of survival if they become dependent on humans for food.

“Beggar” is one of the more famous cases. He was found dead off the coast of Sarasota in October 2012. The 20-year-old dolphin was widely known around the world by researchers, tourists and locals. If you search YouTube, you can still find videos of people interacting with “Beggar The Dolphin.”

By the time officials found him, his body was partially decomposed, making it impossible to determine his exact cause of death. Officials speculate it was his poor diet, caused by his dependency on humans for food, according to National Geographic.

What can you do to help keep dolphins safe?

If you see a wild dolphin, don’t feed it.

For starters, it’s illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. If a dolphin starts to associate people, boats and fishing gear with food, it puts them in danger. Dolphins could get hit by a boat, tangled in fishing lines or lose interest in foraging for food.

Harassing, harming and killing wild dolphins is also illegal. Violators can face up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation.

You shouldn’t swim with wild dolphins either. They’re known to become aggressive when seeking food or defending their territories, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

If you find a dead or injured dolphin, don’t touch it. Instead, you should call police or 877-WHALE HELP (877-942-5343)

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