Federal officials in Texas are investigating beachgoers’ harassment of a stranded female dolphin that later died.
According to witnesses, some individuals on Quintana Beach on the Gulf of Mexico some 6 miles east of Freeport dragged the bottlenose dolphin back into the water last Sunday, then “attempted to swim with and ride the sick animal,” the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said in a statement on Facebook.
“She ultimately stranded” again and was “further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach where she died before rescuers could arrive on scene,” the statement added.
Quintana Beach County Park officials called the death a “tragedy.”
“Dolphins strand because they are sick or injured, and will most likely drown if returned to sea or re-strand in worse condition,” Heidi Whitehead, executive director of stranding network, told the Houston Chronicle.
Harassing marine mammals, which are federally protected, is illegal, she noted.
All pertinent information about the dolphin has been forwarded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which investigates cases of harassment. Violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act is punishable by up to a year in prison and as much as $11,000 in fines.
In other tragic dolphin news, a lactating bottlenose still nursing was found dead last month on Fort Myers Beach in Florida with a wound above her right eye. She was apparently impaled in the head with a spearlike object while still alive, officials told local news station WESH 2. They are continuing to investigate the death.