A sick dolphin stranded herself on a Texas beach last week and died when beachgoers pushed her back into the water and tried to ride her.
According to a dolphin rescue group, rescuers were unable to reach the scene on Quintana Beach in time.
Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said that dolphins and other marine mammals will strand themselves when they’re sick, and any type of harassment will only make the situation worse.
This particular dolphin, the group said, eventually stranded herself again, and the crowd continued to harass her.
“In this case, it’s a pretty egregious example of what not to do,” Texas A&M University-Galveston Marine Biologist Dr. Christopher Marshall told KHOU. “People riding the animal, the animal was quite sick, already stressed at this point. The animal was probably on the brink and the stress is what killed it.”
Marshall and the stranding network stressed that harassing marine animals is illegal.
“You could get into some serious trouble with law enforcement. You could face fines or imprisonment. It’s a serious issue,” Marshall said. “It really enriches our lives to have these animals around us. They’re quite beautiful and they’re really important to the ecosystem.”
The network says that beachgoers who find a live dolphin or whale stranded should call 1-800-9MAMMAL (1-800-962-6625) for guidance on how to help support the animal until rescue response arrives.
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[Featured image: Quintana Beach revelers harass a sick dolphin/Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network]