Dolphin dies after being impaled in the head off southwest Florida

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Authorities are investigating the death of a dolphin that had been impaled in the head off the coast of southwest Florida.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement said the bottlenose dolphin had been found dead along Upper Captiva Island in Lee County at the end of May.

NOAA said a necropsy revealed the dolphin had been impaled with a spear-like object while it was still alive.

"There was a wound penetrating from above and in front of the right eye, extending almost 6 inches toward the top and back of the head," officials said in a press release. "The wound ended inside the head at the top of the skull and had evidence of hemorrhaging, indicating wounds consistent with being impaled prior to death."   

The adult male dolphin was previously known to biologists in the area, and had last been seen swimming around fishing boats and with "begging dolphins."

"The puncture wound indicates this dolphin might have been in a begging posture when he was stabbed," NOAA said.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call NOAA's Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously, the agency said.

Combined rewards of up to $38,000 are being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for killing the dolphin.

Harassing, harming, killing or feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. NOAA said violations are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.

Since 2002, NOAA said at least 26 dolphins have been found with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects.