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Dead Dolphin on Deer Island
Call: SOS-DOL-PHIN (888-767-3657)
LMRD No. 678, Aug 16, 2018

A couple of weeks ago Emma and I paddled around Deer Island from Biloxi, in breezes 10-15mph out of the SE.

There were some isolated storms in area. The island was alive with screaming, diving birds -- lots of osprey, pelicans, skimmers, waders -- and jumping fish. The waves crashing 2-3 feet tall on south side. It was relatively calm on the north side.

**Warning: disturbing images coming up further down in this dispatch**

I set up paint table and Emma went walking down the beach.

While exploring, Emma found some yellow police tape wrapped around some driftwood. Did something bad happen here? Surely not in this beautiful place.

In the distance we spotted a dark shape, curved appendage sticking up in the air. Oh no!

It was an awful, gut-wrenching sight: a dead dolphin

We called SOS-DOL-PHIN and gave them GPS coordinates. We emailed photos.

The crew from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies loaded up their boat and sped out to Deer Island for a necropsy, an animal autopsy.

We discovered later that there has been a rash of dolphin murders along the Gulf Coast. A previous victim was sadly not one, but two dolphins: a mother pregnant in full term. The Sun Herald reported that "NOAA Investigators want to find out who shot the dolphin and bring them to court on civil or criminal charges. It’s a federal offense to kill, harm, harass or feed wild dolphins. It can cost you up up to a year behind bars and $100,000 in fines." (See below for full story from Sun Herald).

If you have any information about the dolphin murders, or need to report a sighting, contact the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (SOS-DOL-PHIN)

Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
10801 Dolphin Lane
Gulfport, MS 39503

Who shot a pregnant dolphin? The reward for information just got a lot bigger.

The Sun Herald
BY ROBIN FITZGERALD July 25, 2018 03:13 PM

For photos and full story in the Gulfport Sun Herald:

When gentle waves off the Mississippi Coast pushed a dead bottlenose dolphin onto the beach in Waveland in April, nothing seemed amiss and there were no signs of harm.

But veterinarians have since learned the female carrying a full-term calf died of a gunshot wound. And now, animal agencies have increased the reward to $11,500 for identification of the shooter.

A beachgoer saw the dolphin April 30 between Buccaneer State Park and Clermont Harbor, said Mobi Solangi, executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. He said it appeared “freshly dead” but didn’t have any obvious signs of the cause of death.

“The dolphin had a full-term calf and the dolphin died of a gunshot wound, which also killed its calf,” Solangi said.

“It’s really very sad to see the indiscriminate killing of a highly social animal. Also, we lost so many mammals after the BP oil spill (in 2010) that we want this protected population to grow back. Every one that gives birth is a plus.”

He said marine mammal workers recovered more than 300 dead dolphins from the Mississippi Coast in the three years after the 2010 oil spill of 2010. The workers continue to respond to stranded dolphins, but not near as many.

It’s a federal offense

NOAA Investigators want to find out who shot the dolphin and bring them to court on civil or criminal charges.

It’s a federal offense to kill, harm, harass or feed wild dolphins. It can cost you up up to a year behind bars and $100,000 in fines.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the results of the necropsy July 20 and a $6,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution. Three days later, the reward increased to $11,500.

If you know who shot the dolphin, you may qualify for reward money funded by six different advocacy groups — Lightkeepers, The Human Society of the United States, CetLaw, Ocean Experience, the Animal Welfare Institute and Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder.

Since 2002, at least 24 dolphins in the north Gulf Coast, including the one found in Waveland, have been shot by bullets or arrows or impaled by other objects, NOAA says.

The one found in Waveland is among five found stranded dolphins found on area beaches in six months. Two dead baby dolphins were found on beaches in Gulfport and Pass Christian. An adult dolphin was found dead on Ship Island.

At least one person has been prosecuted for shooting dolphins on the Mississippi Coast in the past five years. A Bayou La Batre, Alabama, man was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Gulfport in 2014. He confessed to a shooting from 2012 while being interviewed by NOAA investigators, court records show.

The man told investigators dolphins had become aggressive by trying to get to his nets before he could pull up his catches.

Don’t feed the dolphins

Boaters, fishermen and others should never feed dolphins.

“Dolphins that are fed by people learn to associate people with food and put themselves in dangerous situations when they approach people, boats and fishing gear looking for food,” NOAA said in a news release.

“They can learn to approach fishing gear and to teach this behavior to their young. Such behavior has, in some cases, resulted in violence toward dolphins by fishermen frustrated by the loss of their catch.”

To report a stranded dolphin on the Mississippi Coast, call the IMMS at 1- 888-SOS-DOLPHIN (888-767-3657).

Anyone who has information that can help identify the shooter is asked to call the NOAA Hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or the Slidell field office at 1-985-643-6232. You can give an anonymous tip, NOAA says, but you must include your name and contact information to be eligible for the reward.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

For photos and full story in the Gulfport Sun Herald:

PS: We also saw a pod of live dolphins, as we paddled back to shore. This was reaffirming. It made us happy to see their playful swimming. But the notice is out: watch out dolphins! Not all people have good intentions for you!

Coming soon to the Lower Mississippi River:

~~ Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibition ~~

Quapaw Canoe Company, Clarksdale, MS

Aug 31 - Oct 13, 2018

~Grand Opening Celebration ~
Friday, August 31st, 6-8pm

Sunflower Avenue Block Party!!!

Bluesman Extraordinaire:
James "Super Chikan" Johnson

Paddler, Dancer, Poet: Wang Ping

Thank you to our celebration sponsor: Levon's Bar & Grill
(on same block of Sunflower Avenue in downtown Clarksdale!)

~Made possible by the Mississippi Humanities Council~

~Presented by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation~


The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company, which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary Year in 2018. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to and click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.