Beggar the dolphin dies
One of Sarasota’s most well known and ill-fed dolphins was found dead near the Albee Road Bridge in Sarasota on Friday, Sept. 21. Known as “Beggar,” the bottlenose dolphin was one of the most studied wild dolphins in the world and an example of how human behavior can sometimes hurt wild animals.
Beggar frequented the Albee Road Bridge area of the Intracoastal Waterway, often approaching and being approached by boaters who fed and attempted to pet him.
The dolphin was found floating in the water late Friday afternoon near Mile Marker 15 of the Intracoastal Waterway, just north of the Albee Road Bridge. The body was recovered by Sarasota County Marine Patrol, which towed the dolphin to a boat ramp so Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program could pick it up. A member of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, which has studied the dolphins of Sarasota Bay for 42 years, identified the animal as Beggar.
Gretchen Lovewell, manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, performed a necropsy, or animal autopsy, on Beggar Friday evening. The animal’s body was in a state of moderate decomposition and no definitive cause of death could be pinpointed. However, there were numerous findings indicating that his interactions with humans played an overall role in Beggar’s ill health.
Externally, there were healed boat wounds on the dorsal fin, a healed puncture wound on the right pectoral fin, a possible boat wound on the right side of the body, below the dorsal fin and a healing p blowhole and the dorsal fin. Beggar had multiple broken ribs and vertebrae.
While he did not have much food in his stomachs, there were three fishing hooks and small bits of line in the first stomach, two squid beaks (not a normal prey item for resident Sarasota Bay dolphins) and several ulcers of varying severity in the third stomach. He was dehydrated — possibly because he was not eating a normal dolphin diet. Hooks and line removed from Beggar’s stomach during a necropsy at Mote Marine Laboratory.
In addition to these wounds, Lovewell also found internal injuries from two stingray barbs. One barb had migrated through the ribs and embedded near the small intestine with necrotic tissue surrounding the barb. The second barb was found near the right shoulder blade and was very close to puncturing the thoracic cavity (near the lungs).