Who is shooting and mutilating dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, and why?

Photo: IMMS

Someone is killing and mutilating dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, and no one can figure out who is doing this, or why. This Friday, a team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, Mississippi encountered a dolphin with its lower jaw cut off; last weekend, they found a dead dolphin with a 9mm bullet wound that "went through the abdomen, into the kidneys and killed it," according to IMMS director Moby Solangi. Snip from the Sun-Herald's coverage:
In Louisiana, a dolphin was found with its tail cut off. "Animals don't eat each other's tails off," Solangi said. "We think there's someone or some group on a rampage," he said. "They not only kill them but also mutilate them."

IMMS investigated the first dolphin shooting earlier this year and incidents have increased in the past few months. In Alabama, someone stabbed and killed a dolphin with a screwdriver, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration press release. In September, a dolphin was found on Elmer's Island, La., with a bullet in its lung. Others have been mutilated with knife-like lesions.

Read more at the Sun-Herald, more at Alabama news site AL.com, and more in the Associated Press. All of this may or may not be related to screwdriver attacks on dolphins this June. Who the hell does this?


  1. So easy to understand. Put your Dixie (Southern) mindset on. Can’t shoot hippies, etc., so dolphins are surrogates. Also, dolphins are poster child for excesses of oil drilling and pollution. A few out-of-work rednecks are making a statement here.

          1.  Occams razor is not a method; it is a lesson. It teaches us that we should base our judgments on the least assumptions possible. Circumstantial evidence is assumptive by essence.

          2.  You’re not wrong, but you hardly addressed my point.

            There are known facts. Dead dolphins, mutilated.

            What do we know? People own boats. Local people own boats. Local peope reflect local prejudices.

            I’d say we’ve taken quite a few lessons from Occam so far, and it’s a good place to start.

    1. You know… You don’t know that. And really that is an unbelievably defamatory racist assumption. If you were to make some kind of derogatory accusation on ANY other group based on race or social class, you would get lambasted. Instead you’re getting “likes” really people? Aren’t you supposed to be the enlightened educated free thinking liberals here? This is like assuming that someone who robbed your house is black or Mexican. This article makes me sick, and I wouldn’t pin something like this on anyone without evidence.

        1. Yes. I do. I think my meaning was clear. I am glad that I offered you a chance to be clever. Now scroll down and see how much a Southern poster feels about the comment above. That’s it I’m out. 

          1. I believe you think that. Is there any room for you to be wrong, ever? How about now? ANY chance that you’ve dropped a turd in return for a perceived turd, and are claiming the high road while taking the same one Nathan is?
            Bless your southern heart.

      1.  I find it to be a believably defamatory and racist assumption. And the crackers have earned it.

    2. Maybe it’s rednecks using dolphins as hippie surrogates, but it’s also likely that it’s hippie vegans shooting the carnivorous dolphins ’cause they don’t wish to risk arrest by shooting up butcher shops. Their reasoning is that dolphins are as smart as people and should know better than to eat meat. 

      Anyway John, joking aside, you might be right about the rednecks, but I doubt it’s the unemployed ones. More likely the dolphins either are getting caught in nets, causing the fishermen to shoot them dead, then cut them out of the nets and/or the fishermen shooting the dolphins they think are messing with the nets. 

      /I don’t know much about commercial fishing or nets.

    3. Well, what’s truly important here is that you have successfully capitalized on this opportunity to demonstrate your moral and intellectual superiority to an entire quadrant of the country!  Your masterful distillation of all the nuances of Southern culture to a simpleminded stereotype clearly shows how erudite you are!

      It’s understandable that some folks could mistake your nuanced critique as regional variant of the very same brand of ignorance you lambast, but i get it. You clearly have us all pegged. I see you are a best-selling author.  I BEG you to move to Oxford and grace the unwashed and the incestuous as to what Harper Lee got wrong. I’m so happy I took a break from breedin’ with the cuz to read this. 

      1. I agree with you br3rRabbit, the South is too often stereotyped unfairly. 

        Actually, in my view, the American South is several distinct cultural units. I lived in Virginia – the Appalachian part – for years as a little kid, then later as an adult – and I’ve spent time in other parts on business. Virginia and Mississippi – night and day. In many respects, I found the area of VA I lived in – the Charlottesville-Staunton-Harrisonburg area to have a  much, much, less provincial way-of-thinking than my birthplace, L.A., where I grew up, the Pac. N.W., or the some of the boroughs of New York City. You want provincial – go to fuckin’ NYC , including Manhattan.Anyway — If I hadn’t spent that time in the South, if I had lived _all_ my life on the West Coast – I might have developed some of the very same misconceptions as Mr. Farr. So, what I’m saying, maybe we can give Mr. Farr (and others) a break? 

        1. Well, on one hand I am happy that your view of the South is informed by more than “Lil Honey Boo Boo” or a harried stop at a truck stop. I would argue that the differences between individual towns, counties, or parishes are just as great as the differences you experienced btw different regions.  Even within the same state. 
          And then there’s the other hand. That Mr Farr is the one that should get the break. Not the Southern Liberals who incessantly get tarred with that wide and rather stagnant brush.  

          On our “great progressive coasts” being a Southerner means being subjected to a prejudice that’s completely ok. It’s just the one little identity based prejudice that we should all just giggle off. After all, we have to feel superior to someone and the negroes and women are off-limits now. Darn it!

          It absolutely infuriates me how hard I had to work to shed my gorgeous Savannah accent to get anywhere in my career in San Francisco. And how much easier things became once I did.
          To not meet with arrogant, snide comments about incest and lynchings and obesity and illiteracy and religion at industry parties and professional settings where this shit would be grounds for litigation if just one or two words were changed.

          It would be one thing if these people were judging me based upon the merits of my own culture – that’s something I could handle constructively.  But these people are just huffing at a stereotype to which I don’t even remotely belong. And they know absolutely nothing about the culture that I DO come from.  That is not admirable.  

          And then if I get angry over the incest or lynching jokes, my well meaning friends tell me to “cut them a break” because after all:

          “You’re not like that, you’re one of the good ones.”

          Christ, where have I heard that before? Like I said, it’s the exact same ignorance you see in the South.  The same language even. 

          “The people of Wall Mart” are in every part of this country.  Every part of the world, really.  Do you think that you would enjoy having that stereotype just assigned to you over and over and over again? 

          So no. Nobody else is going to take up for the poor redneck Southerners. We sure as hell shouldn’t have to just sit there and take it.

          1. ” On our “great progressive coasts” being a Southerner means being subjected to a prejudice that’s completely ok.”

            Bless. Your. Heart.

          2. I agree with you br3rRabbit. Also, it really sucks that you find it necessary to flatten your Savannah accent in SF. The Savannah accent is indeed truly gorgeous.

          1. Its ok. I have “rural” family in Eastern Wa who hunt and work blue collar jobs.I don’t talk politics with them, but they are good people who keep animals. They don’t abuse them.  I get more than a little tired of it being open season on my family  when every other sub group in the country is off limits. I understand….you just get tired of it. So I got a little over sensitive myself. 
            And your right, a Savannah accent is gorgeous. I say take it back.

          2. There’s nothing for you to be sorry about – and, my compliments on your ability to channel your pent up anger on this subject in  a well written and clear comment. 

        2. So you lived in the Charlottesville area too? I was born there in ’62. It really isn’t the knuckle dragging south that Mr. Farr imagines is it? Being a college town makes a difference.

          Don’t know if you’ve been through Staunton lately but it’s changed a lot. There are coffee shops and hipsters and I even saw a copy of Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” lying around.

          Not the South I see in Alabama and Mississippi by any stretch.

          1. I spent first thru third grade in Pearisburg, which is about 30 miles from Blacksburg, towards WV. When I came back to Oregon, I had an accent that was slightly more thick than you’d find in Charlottesville, or Staunton nowadays, but that was thirty years ago. I caught enough shit about my accent (from school officials!!!) back in Oregon that I decided to keep some of it 

            I moved back to the area in 2009, to Staunton. I was intending to re-start my graduate studies. Had to move back in 2010 due to an unforeseen personal catastrophe. 

            Anyway…no, Virginia in general, and the areas around Charlottesville and Harrisonburg are very, very different than some of the other areas of the South. This area contains the highest concentration of higher learning institutions in the US.  

            Staunton is such a great town, I just loved it. As for hipsters, I saw a few, but they just added to the local colour  (I live just down the road from Portlandia, so I know the hipsters.) It really fcuked with my head when I had to leave.

    4. Hey John – I was born and raised in the South and we’re not all ignorant savages. Many country folks would put a workboot straight up the ass of the bastards hacking away at dolphins.

      Take a long, deep breath of that Taos air and when that wave of calm descends feel free to say, “I’m sorry y’all” and we’ll just let this lie.

    5. While we’re going down the path of being better than everyone else, the culprit(s) are about as equally likely to be female, cajun, native american, black, or asian. More importantly, they’re probably blue collar. Seriously, “Put your ‘%’ mindset on”, the sequel. Put your southern mindset on, and then you can see that maybe they were scared of the dolphins, stupid, drunk, unable to control base instincts, or are emotionless robots. The good news is it’s the south so the culprits are probably segregated and easier to lump together as a group. Just remember that you have a unique and valuable cultural identity. It’s ok because deep down you know you’re better than everyone else.

      1. The difference is that with the original statement came context and motive.

        I agree that it’s painting with a broad, speculative brush, but it wasn’t quite as random as you imply.

      2. I don’t think you’re correct in saying it’s just as likely that the culprits are women. Got any research you can point to that backs that up?

    1. At least they’d have good reason. Dolphins like to kill and gang-rape porpoises. And I’m not saying ‘like’ as in its something they do as animals by instinct that looks like human behaviour but isn’t — they really, really like to kill and rape things.

  2. From my experience on west coast trawlers, I’d say fishermen.  Not for some projected political reason or cultural stereotype of southerners, but rather because they think it is fun.  They have the guns out to shoot at whatever and take some potshots at a dolphin as it goes by.  A dolphin gets caught in a net or a longline and they cut its tail off to save the net or line.  I’ve seen it happen with sharks, I can definitely see it happening with anything else.

    Chances are it’s been happening forever.

      1. When are we gonna have laws that effectively minimise bycatch? I’m with these dudes… it’s most likely scummy fishermen, way off shore where no one is watching.

        1. Laws and enhanced enforcement only go so far. Even NGOs such as Green Peace are stretched well thin. 

          The solution to minimising bycatch will be technology. The gub’ment(s) need to better fund research aiming for a technological solution. 

    1.  I agree – fishermen, when faced with losing catch or equipment, will gladly sacrifice the lives of other creatures, especially if no one is monitoring them.

  3. Possibly an H.P. Lovecraft fanatic.  HPL had it in for dolphins and several of his stories point out that they use their telepathic powers to stimulate evil thoughts in unsuspecting humans.

  4. Evil Aliens sampling for bioassay reasons; just like the cattle mutilations. I wonder if cattle mutilations are up this year?

  5. The first question I’d be asking is whether these injuries are post or ante-mortem. It makes a huge difference to the story. I know that in the newspaper article it says that there injuries killed the dolphins, but are they sure? 

    Beyond that, I’d definitely assume that the culprits were people who saw the dolphins as a threat to their activity; fishing being the most likely one. (Telephone sanitizing, less so).

  6. Yeah, I should think the “why” part here would be pretty obvious. Sorry to say, but some people just enjoy cruelty. And it’s a whole lot easier to get away with it with animals.

    Apparently, somewhere a psychopath has a boat.

  7. This is so unfortunate.  I really hope that the guilty person(s) is caught and severely punished.

    1. Tit for tat is where it’s at. I’d shoot the motherfucker responsible for this myself and sleep very soundly that night. Some people simply deserve to die.

  8. Is there a big reward? People who do this for fun like to brag about it. I’d say the odds of someone who consorts with sadists selling out a friend if the price is right are pretty good. 

  9. It is not uncommon for seals to turn up dead along the WA coast with shotgun or rifle holes in them.  I guess the steal fish or something from the fisherman.

    I wouldn’t have to think to hard to believe the same was happening to dolphins in the coast. 

  10. This should surprise me? The human race is filled to the brim with psychopaths who think nothing of slamming babies against the wall because they cried too loud and we’re surprised that dolphins are shot to death? The insanity of the human race is not an aberration, it’s a feature.

  11. I believe the title is misleading. Yes, it happened in the Gulf of Mexico, but more specifically, along the Miss., LA., coast. I doubt it was Mexicans, or Cubans. Kinda narrows it down a bit. Just sayin’.

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