Florida wildlife officials are investigating the death of a bottlenose dolphin.
The poor creature was found washed up on Fort Myers Beach with a stab wound to its head. Officials believe humans killed the animal while it was being illegally fed.
Feeding, harming or harassing wild dolphins is a crime and is prohibited by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violators can face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to US$100,000 (~€95,200).
Officials are seeking information about the incident that led to the death of the dolphin, and a hotline has been set up where tips can be left anonymously.
According to a statement released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
“Based on the shape, size and characteristics of the wound, it is suspected that the dolphin was impaled while in a begging position. Begging is not a natural behavior for dolphins and is frequently associated with illegal feeding.”
The agency further added:
“A necropsy, non-human autopsy, revealed the dolphin was impaled in the head with a spear-like object while alive. Further examination indicated the wound, above the right eye, was inflicted before the animal died. The animal appeared to have died from the trauma, which occurred at or near the time of death.”
Sadly, the latest dolphin fatality brings the total number of dolphins to have been found shot, stabbed or impaled and washed up to 27 since 2002.