A dolphin that became stranded on a beach in Texas died before rescue crews arrived—after being harassed by crowds that tried to ride it. The female dolphin had become stuck Sunday on Quintana Beach, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network reported. "Park staff was called to assist in keeping the public away from the dolphin until rescuers could arrive from Galveston," the Quintana Beach County Park posted on Facebook, per NPR. A photo in the post showed people crowded around the sick dolphin. "Unfortunately it was a retrieval, not a rescue," the post said.
Officials pointed out that harassing stranded sea animals disrupts their natural behavior and stresses them and that interacting with them can be dangerous to people. It's also illegal; violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act could bring a year in prison and civil penalties up to $11,000, per NBC. The network's executive director said its workers see people attempting to feed or swim with dolphins, chasing them with boats or jet skis, or trying to pet them. She said it's rare to see someone try to ride a dolphin. All of those actions are against the law.
"If a live dolphin or whale strands in Texas, please do not push the animal back to sea, do not attempt to swim or interact with them, do not crowd them," the organization said. In this case, the people who harassed the dolphin had left by the time rescuers arrived, per CNN. The dolphin's body has been taken for a necropsy to try to find why it became stranded on the beach. (Read more beached dolphins stories.)