A sick dolphin stranded on a Texas shore died after being harassed by beachgoers — and the feds are now offering a $20,000 reward to catch those responsible, authorities said.
The female bottlenose dolphin washed up on Quintana Beach near Freeport, Texas on April 10, and drowned after beachgoers pushed the animal back out to sea, tried to swim with it and even rode it, local outlet KHOU reported.
“In this case, it’s a pretty egregious example of what not to do,” Texas A&M University Galveston Marine Biologist Dr. Christopher Marshall told KHOU.
“People riding the animal, the animal was quite sick, already stressed at this point,” she said. “The animal was probably on the brink and the stress is what killed it.”
It’s common for dolphins to strand themselves on Texas beaches, but people are not supposed to touch the federally protected mammals, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said in Facebook post.
“She ultimately stranded (for a second time) and was further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach where she later died before rescuers could arrive on scene,” the group said in a Facebook post.
“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.”
Instead, people are supposed to report stranded dolphins to authorities (1-800-962-6625 in Texas).
Investigators with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s law enforcement are asking anyone with information on who harassed the dolphin to come forward. They will be eligible for the reward money if there is successful identification, prosecution and an arrest or conviction.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement Hotline is (800) 853-1964.