The bottlenose dolphin was found dead on Fort Myers Beach, Florida. NOAA first learned about the animal on March 24, and staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recovered the animal, said the agency in a news statement.
An examination determined that the dolphin was impaled with a “spear-like” object above its right eye while it was still alive. The dolphin, a lactating adult female, died from the trauma.
According to NOAA, the dolphin’s wound indicates it was killed while in a “begging” position which “is frequently associated with illegal feeding.” Feeding dolphins can threaten the animals’ health and also sometimes lead them to become aggressive toward humans, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says.
NOAA told CNN that as of April 29 there were no new leads in the case.
Any witnesses are urged to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
Feeding, harming, harassing, and killing wild dolphins is prohibited in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, says NOAA, and violations are punishable with up to $100,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail per violation.