A dolphin that washed up on a Florida beach was found to have been stabbed to death in a sick marine murder that investigators are now trying to solve, wildlife officials said.
Beachgoers discovered the remains of the female bottlenose dolphin with a gory gash above its right eye late last month along the shoreline in Fort Meyers, Fla.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted a necropsy on the mammal and determined that it had been impaled with a spear-like object.
The injury was sustained while it was alive, officials said.
The agency said the dolphin was likely being illegally fed in a semi-upright position before being stabbed.
“Based on the shape, size and characteristics of the wound, it is suspected that the dolphin was impaled while in a begging position,” the NOAA said. “Begging is not a natural behavior for dolphins and is frequently associated with illegal feeding.
Officials took a troubling picture of the lifeless creature that showed a large cut on the right side of its skull.
Harming or killing wild dolphins is prohibited under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and violators face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Local law enforcement is probing the incident.
Officials said violence against dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico is an ongoing concern.
The Fort Myers stabbing marks the 27th case since 2002 where the mammals have been victimized, the NOAA said.