Young dolphin found dead riddled with bullets, officials say. Search is on for killer

A young bottlenose dolphin was found shot dead on a Louisiana beach, with bullets lodged in its heart, officials say.

The search is on for the killer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put out a call for information April 23, offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to a criminal conviction or civil penalty.

A citizen first reported the stranded dolphin on West Mae’s Beach on March 13, NOAA said in a news release.

“The dolphin, a juvenile, had injuries consistent with being shot with a firearm,” authorities said.

The Audubon Aquarium Rescue took the dolphin to New Orleans to conduct a necropsy to determine the cause of death. The necropsy found bullets lodged in the dolphin’s heart, brain and spinal cord.

“The animal appeared to have died from the trauma, which occurred at or near the time of death,” officials said.

It’s illegal to harm, harass or feed wild dolphins under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA’s law enforcement agency is seeking information that leads to the identification and prosecution of the person responsible.

Harming a dolphin carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail or a $100,000 civil penalty.

Bottlenose dolphins are found in warm and temperate waters around the world. The animals can live up to 60 years and reach 13 feet in length, according to NOAA. While they’re not classified as endangered, they face hazards such as fishing gear and harassment from humans.

Mae’s Beach is in western Louisiana, about a 15-mile drive from the Texas border.

Sharks discovered in tidal ponds on popular South Carolina barrier island, town warns

Unexpected find solves mystery surrounding 30-year-old dolphin’s death, SC team says

Sea creature puts on ‘rare’ show for California tour boat and beachgoers. ‘What a day!’

Rare photos capture ‘spectacular’ behavior of ocean giants in Australia. See them race