Officials have reported that a sick dolphin that washed ashore alive on a Texas beach has since died after a crowd of people harassed the animal and attempted to “ride” it.
The dolphin was seen stranded ashore at Quintana Beach County Park, where it had washed up from the sea. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network posted about the incident on Facebook, reporting that bystanders discovered the animal and attempted to push it back out to sea. However, some sick individuals also “attempted to swim with and ride the sick animal.”
Unfortunately efforts to move the animal back to the sea were unsuccessful and the dolphin was left stranded again and further harassed by more people. Sadly, the dolphin died before rescuers could arrive to take care of it.
“This type of harassment causes undue stress to wild dolphins, is dangerous for the people who interact with them and is illegal — punishable by fines and jail time if convicted,” the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network pointed out.
Dolphins are a species of animal that are protected under federal law, as it is illegal to harass, feed, or disturb the animal while in the wild. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has warned that any human interactions for this species can be dangerous for its survival.
“Human interactions cause animals to lose their wariness of people and boats, leading to boat strikes, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear,” the agency explains.
There was another separate incident where NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement stated that a dead dolphin was discovered on Fort Myers Beach, Florida and medical examiners speculate that the dolphin had been impaled in the head with a spear-like object while still alive. They continue to seek information about its death.
“Based on the shape, size and characteristics of the wound, it is suspected that the dolphin was impaled while in a begging position,” NOAA said in a statement.
“Begging is not a natural behavior for dolphins and is frequently associated with illegal feeding. People can help prevent future harm to wild dolphins by not feeding or attempting to feed them. Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people, boats, and fishing gear with food, which puts dolphins and people in harmful situations,” the agency said.
The NOAA has shared that since 2002 at least 27 dolphins that have been stranded on beaches with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows or impaled with a sharp object.
“Harassing, harming, killing or feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violations can be prosecuted civilly or criminally and are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail per violation,” officials stated.