QUINTANA BEACH, Texas - Officials say a dolphin on a Texas beach passed away after she was stranded alive over the weekend and reportedly "harassed by a crowd of people."
Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) shared shocking photos on Facebook, saying a dolphin on Quintana Beach, Texas located in Brazoria County, was "pushed back to sea, where beachgoers tried to swim with and ride the sick animal."
We're told the dolphin was ultimately stranded and "further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach, where she later died before rescuers could arrive on scene."
Officials warned, that as a result, any interactions with dolphins (other than a professional) can only cause more stress on the mammal, but is also illegal.
"This type of harassment causes undue stress to wild dolphins, is dangerous for the people who interact with them, and is illegal - punishable by fines and jail time if convicted," TMMSN said in their Facebook post. "If a live dolphin or whale strands in Texas, please DO NOT PUSH the animal back to sea, do not attempt to swim or interact with them, do not crowd them, and immediately call 1-800-9MAMMAL for guidance on how to help support the animal until the TMMSN rescue response arrives!"
Quintana Park officials condemned the incident as well, calling it a tragedy.
"Park staff was called to assist in keeping the public away from the dolphin until rescuers could arrive from Galveston," officials said in their Facebook post. "Unfortunately, it was a retrieval, not a rescue. The animal was taken for necropsy to try and determine the cause of the stranding."
At the nearby community of Surfside, several people expressed their frustration on Wednesday regarding what happened.
"You shouldn’t be messing with a dolphin if you don’t know anything about it," said Jesus Gonzalez.
"It’s really awful people would touch it, and harm it," said Stephanie Lyons. "I was surprised people would do that. You never know down here. It’s sad."
"People should respect wildlife and help it out if you can," said Chris McDonald. "If you can’t, walk away and call other people that are in charge."
On Wednesday, we spoke with Steve Aibel about rescuing dolphins. Aibel is the Vice President Zoological for SeaWorld San Antonio.
"Our experience tells us to get in touch with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network immediately," said Aibel. "Start to take direction from them."
Aibel says they’ve worked with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network to rescue injured and sick animals along the Texas coast.
"Do not push them back into the water," said Aibel. "Contact the proper authorities. If you can keep them wet, keep them cool, that’s very helpful. Also, keep them calm. Keep things relaxed. You don’t want to increase the stress level for a mammal you find stranded on the coastline."