A dolphin stranded on a Texas beach died last week after crowds of people “harassed” and gawked at the animal instead of letting it swim back to sea. The beachgoers at Quintana Beach reportedly surrounded the animal in shallow water, blocking its path at first; but then tried to ride it and swim with it until the dolphin ultimately tired out and died, according to NBC News.
In a Facebook post, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network lamented the sad interaction, saying that the beachgoers should not have harassed the “sick” animal.
“She ultimately stranded and was further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach where she later died before rescuers could arrive on scene,” the organization said.
The wildlife org further explained that intense human interactions can cause undue stress for the wild dolphins. Not only is it illegal to harass a dolphin, but it is also dangerous for all parties involved.
“This type of harassment causes undue stress for wild dolphins,” the post continued. “It is also dangerous for the people who interact with them, and is illegal — punishable by fines and jail time if convicted.”
A concerned onlooker at the Texas beach ultimately called wildlife rescue to assist the stranded dolphin; but it was too late. The Quintana Beach County Park department could not save the animal.
“If a live dolphin strands in Texas, please DO NOT PUSH the animal back to sea,” the post concluded. “Do not attempt to swim or interact with them; do not crowd them; and immediately call 1-800-9MAMMAL (1-800-962-6625) for guidance on how to help support the animal until the TMMSN rescue response arrives!”
East of Texas, another stranded dolphin turned up dead after an encounter with a human
Another dolphin-related tragedy occurred at Fort Myers Beach in Florida, where a group of beachgoers found a mutilated dolphin washed up on shore. When rescuers arrived on the scene, they found puncture wounds around the dolphins eyes. Dolphins are a protected species in the area.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the dolphin was alive when somebody initially stabbed it. The administration also said that the dolphin was likely trying to feed or beg for food when attacked.
“Based on the shape, size, and characteristics of the wound, we suspect that someone impaled the dolphin while in a begging position,” the NOAA explained. “Begging is not a natural behavior for dolphins. We frequently associate it with illegal feeding.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a picture of the animal in order to help find the perpetrator. Officials believe that someone may have been feeding the dolphins in the area in order to gain their trust and then harvest them.
If found guilty, the killer can face up to a year in prison and fines of $100,000.