Beggar, a dolphin famous for his history of approaching boaters was found floating in the water near Albee Road Bridge on the Intracostal Waterway in Sarasota, FL on Friday. The dolphin’s body was found partially decomposed with the digestive tract containing fish hooks, squid beaks and ulcers.
Humans feeding the animal may have contributed to its death. For the past 20 years, Beggar has been hanging out in the area in which he was found dead. He was famous for begging humans for food, according to the Mote Marine Laboratory.
The dolphin was being observed by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. Apparently Beggar interacted with humans 3,600 times and was given a range of 520 various foods such as beer and hot dogs—not the quintessential diet for a dolphin.
This is why feeding marine wildlife is illegal. Beggar has quickly become a poster child for this cause. It is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to feed or pet wild dolphins. These actions could result in up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation. Of course, for some, it could also end in getting bit. On 121 different occasions in which boaters attempted to pet the dolphin, nine of them were bitten in the process.
In a necropsy, an animal autopsy, it was discovered that the dolphin had been struck by boats in the past. Beggar had scars on his dorsal fin as well as several healed puncture wounds on his fins and body. He also suffered multiple broken ribs and vertebrae.
It is still unclear exactly what caused the famous dolphin’s death. According to Gretchen Lovewell, the manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, “All of our findings indicate that he was in poor health for a long time and that his interactions with humans played a role. Boat strike wounds, fishing hooks and line in his stomach—even the squid beaks we found—all of these things indicate that he was spending more time attempting to get food from humans than foraging on his own.”