Why Is NOAA Warning Texans Not to Pet This Dolphin?
One particular dolphin in the Texas Gulf Coast has caused so much trouble lately that there's been a statewide warning about it, but there's more to the story.
Ah, dolphins. Aren't they just wonderful creatures? They always seem to be playful.
I mean just look at this video of dolphins playing with bubbles!
Adorable. It's time like these I wonder if I could own a dolphin. Of course that would require a lot of effort, and could potentially affect the dolphin's mood towards others.
Like this story from the NOAA about one of our friends with fins becoming aggressive towards people. The dolphin in question is currently located off the shore of North Padre Island. The animal has recently started to display what's been described as aggressive behavior toward humans, but it turns out humans are the real problem.
NOAA reports that the dolphin has become habituated thanks to people feeding and petting it, and is now seeking people and boats out. It even has wounds from boats it's gotten too close to. The problem is that the dolphin is now displaying concerning behavior like separating parents and children in the water and even isolating pets from their humans.
According to a release from the NOAA, they have advised tourists to actively avoid the dolphin in question:
Human interaction is to blame for the dolphin’s increasingly aggressive behavior. For more than a year, biologists, law enforcement, and residents of the area have discouraged people from feeding, swimming, or interacting with the dolphin. While some have heeded the warnings, others continue to seek out the animal.
NOAA went on to say that humans should leave the dolphin alone for its safety and yours. Yes - the dolphin has become such an attraction for people that NOAA is having to actively tell people to leave it alone. Look, we all want to pet a cute sea creature, but there are reasons there are laws against feeding them and creating a dependency upon humans.
If you take a trip to North Padre Island and come across the dolphin, you're asked to please just avoid and ignore it. That may seem cruel, and yes, we all want to pet the cute dolphin, but it's in the best interest of the animal and for your own safety.
NOAA is reminding people that interacting with dolphins in a way that changes their natural behavior or injures them is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, so not only could you be harming the animal, but you could get in serious trouble if you're spotted.
Sadly, this reminds me of a story our own Tamme Taylor wrote earlier this year about beachgoers in Texas essentially fatally harassing a dolphin that was stranded on the shore. The animal was clearly in distress, but people were posing for pictures with it and even trying to ride it - heartbreaking stuff.
In fact, there's even a reward being offered for information about the people involved.
Like I said, we all want to pet the cute sea creatures, but leaving them alone is usually the smart and humane thing to do.