The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is offering $20,000 for information on a dolphin killer or killers after two animals were found dead within a week. Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found a dolphin that appeared to have been shot in the face off Naples late last week, shortly before experts with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge found a dolphin on the Pensacola shoreline with a bullet hole in its left side, reports the Miami Herald. This follows the discovery last summer of a dolphin impaled near its right eye along Upper Captiva Island, west of Fort Myers. It was in a begging posture, as was the dolphin found off Naples, per the Fort Myers News-Press.
It's for that reason that authorities believe the animals were looking for a meal when killed. NOAA expert Stacey Horstman notes dolphins who learn to associate humans with food may follow boats, irritating human occupants. "If the dolphin is begging, do not try to engage with that animal in any way," she tells the News-Press, though she adds "it's really hard for a lot of people to see how a simple thing like feeding a dolphin can lead to shocking and egregious behavior like this." It's a federal offense to feed, harass, hunt, or kill wild dolphins, punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $100,000, though an NOAA rep notes cases are rarely solved without help from the public. (Read more dolphins stories.)