Pregnant wild dolphin shot to death near FL panhandle

Pregnant wild dolphin shot to death near FL panhandle

MIRAMAR, FL (WALB) - Information from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Plymouth, MA-

Melissa Walker of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation confirms that their group is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of who ever killed a protected bottlenose dolphin that was within weeks of giving birth..

Walker says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the death of a pregnant bottlenose dolphin found dead on Miramar Beach in the panhandle-area of Florida. 

Necropsy results showed the animal was shot on the upper right side, likely with a small caliber firearm. The bullet was discovered lodged in the dolphin's lung. It's possible the dolphin may have been shot two days before it was recovered.

"We are pleased that we can offer this reward in support of NOAA's ongoing investigation and as a reflection of our commitment to protect dolphins in the Gulf Region" stated Courtney Vail, Campaigns and Programs manager for WDC. "We need the public's help to help catch those responsible for these crimes. Unfortunately, these dolphins face many threats, including the continued impacts from the Gulf oil spill, fishing gear entanglements, and habitat loss. It is disheartening that they are also subjected to brutal attacks and targeted vandalism."

The group says attacks on protected bottlenose dolphins in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have occurred over the past several years and appear to be on the rise. 

Since 2002, there have been at least 17 documented cases of stranded dolphins with evidence of gunshot wounds, and with the majority occurring since 2010, revealing a continuing need for long-term vigilance and for the public to come forward with information to support law enforcement efforts. For some of these cases, it is unknown whether the gunshots happened before or after the dolphin's death.

In June 2012, a dolphin was identified alive with a screwdriver lodged in its head and later found dead near the Florida-Alabama state line in Perdido Bay. 

Harassing, harming, killing or feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally and are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation.

We are seeking information from anyone who may have details pertaining to this incident, including any photos or video. WDC is encouraging the public to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Individuals can leave anonymous tips or identify themselves when providing their reports on the incident.

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is a charity dedicated solely to the protection and welfare of whales, dolphins, porpoises and their environment. WDC serves as a global voice for the conservation of whales and dolphins through campaigns, scientific research, field projects, legal advocacy and educational outreach programs.

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