The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for shooting a pregnant dolphin in Miramar Beach, Florida. This adds to an existing reward of $2,500 offered by Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating this serious crime, which happened just before Thanksgiving.
The dolphin, who was within weeks of giving birth, was found dead on Miramar Beach on Nov. 21, but may have been shot two days prior to discovery. She suffered a gunshot wound, most likely from a small caliber firearm, on her upper right side. A bullet was lodged in her lungs.
Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The HSUS, said, “This bottlenose dolphin and her near-term calf are among the latest victims of a disturbing rise in brutal attacks on dolphins over the past decade in Florida and other Gulf Coast states. It’s tragic that anyone would perpetrate such senseless violence against these smart and playful animals. We are thankful for NOAA’s efforts to bring the offender to justice and strongly encourage the Florida community to help solve this crime.”
This dolphin was killed just weeks before the discovery of another bottlenose dolphin in Alabama, who had been shot with an arrow and suffered for several days before dying from infection. NOAA positively identified the person responsible in that case after a $24,000 reward—provided by The HSUS, the Trust, seven other organizations, and a private resident—prompted an informant to supply critical information about the crime.
At least 13 dolphins have been shot in the Gulf of Mexico since 2010, and there are likely other incidents that have gone undiscovered. In addition to direct attacks by humans, bottlenose dolphins also suffer from entanglement in fishing gear, habitat loss, pollution, collisions with boats, and other threats. People are encouraged not to feed dolphins as it can encourage them to approach boats, creating conflict with fishermen and resulting in harm to the animals.
Dolphins are a protected species. Harming a dolphin is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year incarceration. Civil penalties up to $11,000 per count may also be assessed.
Anyone with information concerning the death is asked to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.