State and federal investigators are looking into the possible shooting of a dolphin found on a beach near San Simeon last week.
William Alvarez of Cambria found a dead dolphin Wednesday, May 30, during a regular beach stroll south of San Simeon near where a beached gray whale was discovered April 21. Thinking the wounds could have been caused by birds pecking at the carcass, he did not report the find.
But when he found a second dead dolphin about 100 yards away Saturday with similar wounds, he notified authorities. By then, the first dolphin had washed away, but officials examined the second dolphin and “verified it was bullet holes,” Alvarez said. “They felt they were shot.”
Alvarez came into the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay, said Carolyn Skinder of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. She and a State Parks ranger examined the carcass.
“It was pretty nasty looking,” Skinder said. “There appeared to be an entry and exit wound.”
“It had decomposed a fair amount already,” said State Parks District Superintendent Nick Franco of the ranger’s observations. “There’s not a lot to go on.”
A necropsy was not done, Franco said. Because there was an exit wound, it appeared that the bullet would no longer be in the dolphin.
It’s the first marine mammal shooting reported on the North Coast since three elephant seals were shot at Piedras Blancas in May 2008, Franco said. Investigators eventually received a tip that led to a suspect in that case, but the suspect died before any charges were filed.
“I don’t want to get into what kind of person did it,” Skinder said. “It’s a big-time federal offense.”
Shooting a dolphin is a violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Depending on what weapon was used where, it could also be a violation of a number of other laws, Franco said.
The state Fish and Game Department, State Parks and federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Officer Bob Yerena are cooperating on the investigation.
A Fish and Game boat that patrols off the North Coast will be keeping watch for anything that could be related to the dolphin shooting, Franco said.
Yerena said late Monday, June 4, that a total of six puncture wounds were on the dolphin found Saturday, but it “could not be determined whether those were a result of gunshots or if the birds had been eating on it, and they classified it as a suspicious death.”
He said the dolphin found Wednesday had “no indication it had been shot, just a dead dolphin on the beach.”