ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Two dolphins have been found with gruesome and life-ending injuries along Florida’s Gulf coast in recent weeks, and federal authorities are offering a reward of up to $20,000 to help solve the case.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one dolphin was discovered dead in waters off Naples in southwest Florida late last week. Officials said the animal had received bullet, or stab wounds — or possibly both.
Also last week, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge found a dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach in the Florida Panhandle.
Experts believe the two deaths might have stemmed from humans feeding the animals. When dolphins learn to associate people and boats with food, they can expose themselves to dangerous situations.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges people to not feed wild dolphins.
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins have been stranded with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects such as fishing spears. In May of 2019, a dolphin was found dead off Captiva Island with a fatal puncture wound to its head. An investigation into that death is still ongoing.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to those responsible for the recent dolphin deaths. Anyone with information can call 1-800-853-1964 and leave an anonymous tip.