Is someone on a dolphin-killing rampage?

It's almost impossible to believe, but authorities along the northern Gulf of Mexico are having to investigate a rash of violent attacks on dolphins after bodies were found with gunshot wounds, cuts, and missing tails. With no leads or apparent motives, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are asking locals to be on the lookout for injured or dead dolphins, and to report any unusual interactions between the animals and people.

The most recent incident came this past Friday when a dolphin was found on Deer Island with its lower jaw missing — the second time a dolphin has been found with this kind of injury.

Just days before that, members from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies responded to a dead dolphin along the Ocean Springs/Gautier coastline with a 9mm bullet wound. Someone shot it right through the abdomen, piercing the kidneys and killing it.

And in Louisiana, a dolphin was found with its tail cut off.

It marks a string of inexplicable attacks and mutilations over the past several months on what is an utterly defenseless and typically docile marine mammal. At least six dolphin killings have been reported so far this year.

The Sun Herald reports:

Is someone on a dolphin-killing rampage?S

"We think there's someone or some group on a rampage," [said Moby Solangi, IMMS executive director], "They not only kill them but also mutilate them."

IMMS investigated the first dolphin shooting earlier this year and incidents have increased in the past few months. In Alabama, someone stabbed and killed a dolphin with a screwdriver, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration press release. In September, a dolphin was found on Elmer's Island, La., with a bullet in its lung. Others have been mutilated with knife-like lesions...

"This is not an ordinary person who is doing it," Solangi said. "We are working with the Coast Guard, police, the sheriff's office and Department of Marine Resources," which he said is the enforcement agency along coastal Mississippi.

Though many people appreciate the beauty of the dolphins that swim along the Mississippi shoreline, he said, others may see them as a nuisance.

Needless to say, harming, harassing, feeding, and killing dolphins is a serious federal offence — one that carries a $100,000 fine and a one year prison term for each violation under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.

All images AP.