Authorities are offering a $38,000 reward for information leading to the culprit or culprits who lethally speared a bottlenose dolphin in the head, possibly while it was begging for food.
A necropsy of the adult male dolphin found that someone had impaled the animal near his right eye “extending almost 6 inches toward the top and back of the head,” according to a statement Thursday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The dolphin was discovered in May along Upper Captiva Island off Florida’s Gulf Coast. He was known to researchers in the area, and was last spotted alive swimming around fishing boats with “begging dolphins.”
The dolphin’s head wound, a graphic photo of which appears below, suggests he may have been in a typical “begging posture” when he was speared, the NOAA statement noted.
“Some folks see ... other fish-eating creatures as direct competition,” Ryan Orgera, CEO of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, told Fox-4 TV in the video above. “Whoever this is is definitely depraved. This is a really heinous act.”
It takes a “truly callous person to stab a gentle dolphin in the head,” Kate MacFall, Florida director for the Humane Society of the U.S., told the Fort Myers News-Press. “Dolphins are among the most beloved of marine animals and there is absolutely no excuse for this wanton cruelty.”
NOAA and other agencies are offering the $38,000 reward for “information leading to the successful identification and/or prosecution for the person(s) responsible and/or an arrest, conviction or civil penalty assessment.”
Anyone with information about the attack can call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964 24 hours a day. Tips may be left anonymously.
More than two dozen dolphins have been attacked with guns or arrows or otherwise impaled in the Gulf of Mexico since 2002, according to NOAA.
Harassing, harming or killing dolphins can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in jail for each violation under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.