Monday, December 9, 2013
By Tamara Lush, The Associated Press
ALONG THE GULF COAST - Over the past several months, dolphins have washed ashore along the northern Gulf Coast with bullet wounds, missing jaws and hacked off fins, and federal officials said they are looking into the mysterious deaths.
A Sept. 23, 2012, photo provided by the Audubon Nature Institute shows a bottlenose dolphin with a gunshot wound near the blowhole. The dead dolphin was found near Elmer's Island, Louisiana.
The most recent case was of a dolphin found dead off the coast of Mississippi, its lower jaw missing.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday they're asking everyone from beachgoers to fishermen to be on the lookout for injured or dead dolphins -- and any unusual interaction between the mammals and people.
"It's very sad to think that anyone could do that to any animal," said Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal scientist for NOAA's southeast office in St. Petersburg, Fla. "There have been some obviously intentional cases."
Fougeres said five dolphins have been found shot. In Louisiana, two were shot in 2011 and one in 2012. And in Mississippi, three were found shot this year, the most recent one last week, which was first reported by the Sun-Herald newspaper.
Besides the shootings, a dolphin in Alabama was found with a screwdriver stuck in its head over the summer. Another in Alabama had its tail cut off, and that animal survived. Still others were missing fins or had cuts to their bodies.