Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday it is offering a reward of $20,000 for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for the violent deaths of two dolphins whose bodies were discovered off Florida's western coast.
Last week, Florida biologists discovered a dead dolphin off Naples that was fatally wounded from either a bullet or a sharp object, NOAA said in a press release.
That same week, experts with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge discovered a second dolphin hundreds of miles away from Naples along Pensacola Beach with a bullet in its left side.
Biologists believe these cases may be the result of people feeding wild dolphins as they come to associate people and boats with food, the NOAA said.
The two deaths followed that of an adult dolphin whose body was recovered near Captiva Island at the end of last May, the NOAA said. The necropsy revealed that the dolphin was impaled in the head with a spear-like object.
"The puncture wound indicates this dolphin might have been in a begging posture when he was stabbed," the NOAA said in a July press release.
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins have died in the Southeastern United States with evidence that they were either shot with bullets or arrows or were impaled with spears.
At least four dolphins have been attacked within this year, it said.