Violent Dolphin Deaths: Dozens Of Dolphins Shot, Stabbed And Mutilated In The Gulf; 700 Dead Since 2010

By Amir Khan on November 20, 2012 9:36 AM EST

dolphin
Dolphins are washing up in the Gulf with bullet holes and missing jaws and fins (Photo: Creative Commons: Mrs. Gemston)

A spree of violent dolphin deaths has scientists and police stumped. Over the past few months, several dolphins have washed up in the Northern Gulf with bullet wounds, missing jaws and fins hacked off, and these violent dolphin deaths have officials searching for a culprit. Since 2010, 700 dolphins have been found dead, many of which were mutilated.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking beachgoers, fishermen and wildlife officials to lookout for injured dolphins or any kind of unusual interaction between humans and dolphin - a sign that the person could be involved in the violent dolphin deaths.

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"It's very sad to think that anyone could do that to any animal," Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal scientist for NOAA, told ABC News. "There have been some obviously intentional cases."

Five of the violent dolphin deaths were caused by guns, two in Louisiana and three in Mississippi, with the most recent violent dolphin death occurring last week. But the violent dolphin deaths aren't just being caused by guns.

One violent dolphin death occurred when someone stuck a screwdriver into the head of one dolphin, and another had its tail cut off.

"I think it is outrageous," Moby Solangi, the executive director of Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., told ABC News. "These animals are very docile, very friendly and they're very curious. They come close to the boats, so if you're out there, you'll see them riding the bows. And their curiosity and friendship brings them so close that they become targets and that's the unfortunate thing."

Dolphins are protected by e 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, and whoever is behind the violent dolphins deaths could face up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for each violent dolphin death.

But Fougeres doesn't think the violent dolphin deaths are the work of a dolphin serial killer.

"The cases are fairly spread apart," she said. "I don't think there is one dolphin murderer out there."

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