$20,000 reward offered after dolphins found shot, stabbed in Florida

A dead dolphin is shown on the coast of Naples, Fla.
A dead dolphin is shown on the coast of Naples, Fla. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/NOAA

Someone has been killing dolphins in Florida and wildlife officials are offering a US$20,000 reward to anyone who helps them track down the culprits.

Two dolphins were found dead from suspected bullet wounds in the state last week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency is also hoping to get to the bottom of another brutal incident from last May when a dolphin was found dead with a puncture wound in its head off Captiva Island, Fla.

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Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found one dead dolphin with a large puncture hole in its body off Naples last week, NOAA says. The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge reported a second dolphin with a bullet hole in its head near Pensacola Beach that same week.

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A gruesome photo posted by NOAA shows a large bullet hole in the side of the second dolphin’s head. Conservationists recovered a bullet from the wound, NOAA says.

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NOAA is investigating all three cases and has promised a $20,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction.

It’s illegal to hunt, harass, feed or kill wild dolphins under Florida state law. Offenders can be punished by a year in jail or up to $100,000 in fines.

“Biologists believe these cases may stem from humans feeding wild dolphins,” NOAA says. “Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people and boats with food, which can put them in harmful situations.”

At least 29 dolphins have been stranded in the southeastern U.S. since 2002, NOAA says.

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Many of them have shown evidence of bullet, arrow or fishing spear wounds.

Anyone with information on the latest cases can call 1-800-853-1964 and leave an anonymous tip.