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'Beggar' the dolphin found dead near Sarasota bridge

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 01:58 PM

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A long-studied, ill-fed dolphin known to beg from humans was found dead Friday near a bridge in Sarasota, scientists at the Mote Marine Laboratory said.

The bottlenose, known as "Beggar," frequented the Albee Road bridge area of the Intercoastal Waterway, where its body was found, the laboratory said. Beggar often approached and was approached by people, who fed it.

A necropsy performed by a Mote Marine scientist Gretchen Lovewell could not pinpoint a cause of death.

Lovewell found two stingray barbs, one near the lungs and another near the small intestine. However, several findings indicated human interaction played a role in the dolphin's ill health, including healed boat wounds, multiple broken ribs and vertebra, hooks in the stomach and dehydration.

Beggar was the subject of numerous scientific papers and public education campaigns designed to help humans learn that feeding and petting wild dolphins is bad for the animals and illegal, Mote Marine said.

"By feeding Beggar, people changed his behavior and put him at an increased risk from boat strikes," a Mote Marine news release said. "It also appeared that other dolphins learned similar 'begging' behavior by watching him interact with humans."

The body was recovered by Sarasota County Marine Patrol, which towed the dolphin to a boat ramp so Mote Marine'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 bottlenose as Beggar.

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