Officials from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) found the dead mammal on Upper Captiva Island in Lee County, Newsweek reported. Authorities are now appealing to anyone with information after the bottlenose dolphin was stabbed in the head with a sharp “spear-like” object. The adult male dolphin was alive at the time of the attack, the examination of the carcass has shown.

The nature of the wound suggested the animal may have been in a “begging position” when the attack happened.

Its fatal wound, above the right eye, measures six inches in length and pierced the top of the skull.

The dolphin had been known in the area by scientists and the animal would swim near fishing boats.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) is asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Enforcement Hotline at (00) 1-800-853-1964.

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There is a reward available of up to $38,000 (£30,350) if any information provided leads to the successful identification or prosecution of the person responsible and/or an arrest, conviction or civil penalty assessment.

The violent attack comes after a pregnant seal was shot in the heart with a rifle, Newsweek reported.

The animal was found on a riverbank in Essex next to another dead pregnant seal in January.

Local conservation groups launched an appeal to find who was responsible for the attacks.

The UK’s Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) said: “The examination found the cause of death to be consistent with shooting, with a single entry wound between the fore flippers.

“The bullet had penetrated part of the heart and the edge of the left lung.

“The bullet was recovered during the examination and appeared to be largely intact.

“It was provisionally identified as a .22 calibre from the width and has been retained.”

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