A bottlenose dolphin was found dead in late March with its head impaled by a spear-like object, according to a Wednesday press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The dead dolphin was found March 24 on Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and recovered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A necropsy found that it was “impaled in the head with a spear-like object while alive,” according to the NOAA.
The dolphin was an adult lactating female and believed to have been killed in a “begging position,” which is a non-natural behavior for dolphins that is associated with illegal feeding, officials with the NOAA said.
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“Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people, boats, and fishing gear with food, which puts dolphins and people in harmful situations,” the report read. (RELATED: Critically Endangered Dolphin Beaten To Death By Group Of Men In India)
The press release stated that at least 27 dolphins have become stranded in the Gulf of Mexico with evidence of being “shot by guns or arrows, or impaled by sharp objects” since 2002.
Officials are asking the public to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964 if they have information about the incident.
Harassing, harming, killing or feeding dolphins violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which could lead to civil or criminal prosecution punishable per violation by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail, according to the NOAA’s release.