A dolphin that live stranded on a beach this week died on the Texas Gulf Coast after a group of people pushed it back into the sea and began swimming with it. They’re also alleged to have tried to ride the animal which died before the animal rescue team arrived.
Cetacean beaching is unfortunately common and spikes in strandings are thought to be connected to sonar interference from humans. It can happen as mass strandings or individual animals and isn’t unique to the cetaceans as an incredibly rare Greenland shark stranding recently turned out to be the first known case of meningitis in these animals.
Exactly why this particular dolphin beached isn’t yet known but a pending necropsy hopes to find some answers. A grim task for those involved considering it’s possible the animal need not have died.
“The dolphin in these photos stranded alive on Quintana Beach, TX on Sunday evening and was reportedly pushed back to sea where beachgoers attempted to swim with and ride the sick animal,” Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said on Facebook.
“She ultimately stranded and was further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach where she later died before rescuers could arrive on scene. This type of harassment causes undue stress to wild dolphins, is dangerous for the people who interact with them, and is illegal – punishable by fines and jail time if convicted.”
Quintana Beach County Park described the dolphin’s death as a “tragedy” in a post on Facebook, as they shared how staff tried to keep the public away from the dolphin until the rescuers could arrive from Galveston. “Unfortunately, it was a retrieval, not a rescue,” they said.
While pushing a stranded animal back out to sea might seem like a logical move, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network urge that people do not do this if they come across a stranded dolphin or whale. And, it goes without saying, you should never try to ride any wild animal be they stranded or at sea.
The best course of action is to keep your distance and call your local marine mammal rescue organizers who will have advice on the next best steps while you wait for a team to arrive. Harassing marine mammals is not only harmful, but punishable by law.