Warning: This story may disturb some readers.
Four long-beaked, common dolphins were found washed ashore with fatal gun shot wounds. A fifth dolphin was found with no bullet wounds but there were lacerations on its pectoral fin most likely caused by a fishing line. The dolphins were all found in the San Diego area in the past couple of weeks.
Autopsies were performed and revealed that all of the dolphins were healthy and may have been shot at the same time with the same gun. Between one and three bullets of the same caliber were found in the same part of their heads.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is in charge of the federal investigation and has offered a reward of $2,500 for any information relating to the deaths.
More information about the investigation after the jump.
“We’re hoping that a witness will answer their conscience that this is a wrong and illegal thing that’s been done and call us and provide us with information that will lead to an arrest and hopefully a conviction,” said NOAA investigator Michelle Zetwo.
Zetwo said it is likely the dolphins may have gotten caught in some fishing lines and the fisherman got angry. She said it could also be that someone was doing target practice on the water.
“It’s very uncommon,” Zetwo said. “I’ve been an agent with NOAA here in San Diego for approximately nine years, and I’ve never heard of an occurrence like this. It’s very unusual.”
Investigators hope an eye witness will come forward and they will also work the U.S. Coast Guard to track the dolphins’ course from where they were shot to where they washed up on shore.
If caught, the perpetrator could face civil penalties of up to $12,000 or a criminal fine of up to $20,000, as well as jail time.