Over the past several months, dolphins have washed ashore along the northern Gulf Coast with bullet wounds, missing jaws, and hacked-off fins, and federal officials say they are looking into the mysterious deaths. The most recent case was of a dolphin found dead off the coast of Mississippi, its lower jaw missing. Six dolphins have been found shot: two in Louisiana last year, plus one there and three in Mississippi this year. Besides the shootings, a dolphin in Alabama was found with a screwdriver stuck in its head over the summer.
Another in Alabama had its tail cut off, and that animal survived. Still others were missing fins or had cuts to their bodies. A marine mammal scientist with the NOAA cautions that some of the dolphin mutilations might have happened after the animal died from natural causes, and she doesn't think the dolphins are being targeted by a gang of people or even by a lone, sick individual. "The cases are fairly spread apart," she said. "I don't think there is one dolphin murderer out there." Some have suggested that the deaths are the work of a few angry fishermen who are upset about bait-stealing dolphins. Yet the majority of fishermen say that while dolphins can be annoying, they wouldn't harm the creatures. (Read more dolphins stories.)