Beggar the Dolphin Found Dead in Florida

One of Florida’s most iconic and beloved wild dolphins was found dead this past Friday. Beggar (or Mooch as some people called him) was a bottlenose dolphin who lived in the Nokomis area of Florida. Beggar hung around under the Albee Street Bridge and was famous for spontaneously showing up alongside boats, popping his head out of the water, opening his mouth wide, and begging for food. He was also notorious for biting the hand that tried to feed him!

File:Sarasota County Florida Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Nokomis Highlighted.svg

Unfortunately, this crafty dolphin was usually successful at obtaining handouts from the humans onboard. He was reportedly fed everything from hot dogs to beer. Despite efforts by law enforcement to curtail this illegal feeding, area residents and visitors fed him for more than two decades. Signs directly under the bridge warn not to feed wild dolphins, and clearly indicate that the activity is illegal. It didn’t seem to matter to the delighted boat passengers who were always thrilled to receive a visit from Beggar.

Researchers at the Mote Laboratory in Sarasota have been studying Beggar’s behavior for many years. After he died, a necropsy was performed on him with disheartening results. Beggar appears to have been sick for many years. The scientists found fish hooks and fishing line in his stomach, many broken ribs and bones, propeller scars, puncture wounds, parasites, and ulcers. They attribute many of these problems to Beggar’s scheming behavior around boats. Dolphins that lose their natural wariness around humans tend to end up in harm’s way. It seems that is exactly what happened to this poor wayward fellow.

In my book, The Dolphin Watcher’s Guide to Southwest Florida, I talk about Beggar and his curious behavior. In fact, I’ve stood on that very bridge where Beggar liked to hang out, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I never did see him…

To see a gorgeous picture of Beggar taken just days before he died, click here.

For more information about the dangers of feeding wild dolphins, check out:

Wild Dolphins “Jonesing” For People Food

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About wherethedolphinsswim

I've been vacationing with wild dolphins for more than 20 years. You can do it too!
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11 Responses to Beggar the Dolphin Found Dead in Florida

  1. Oh how sad. Man sure seems to be the worst enemy of about anything in the natural world. 😦 Poor Beggar…

  2. Monica S says:

    Aww, poor Beggar, so sad. I’m sorry you never got to see him. I’ve only been out in those waters a handful of times but I’ve seen him twice. Both times he came up to our boat when we were idling out to the gulf. We NEVER fed him. I was just there last week and got his picture, taken on either the 14th or 15th. I’ll send it to you if you want it. Let me know.

  3. zannyro says:

    We would see Beggar..we called him Mooch….all of the time…..and he was fed CONSTANTLY…despite the signs……..Lots and lots of boats would circle and lure him with food….my Brother-in-law…let’s call him “the idiot’….was bitten by this dolphin and deserved to be.
    We told him if the dolphin surfaced to keep his hands in the boat..showed him the sign warning people not to feed, not to touch….Mooch surfaced…”the idiot’ tried to pet him, and got a bloody hand as a result…served him right.

    I’m so sorry that Mooch is gone…it was a privilege to see such an awesome creature up close…but i wish…and I know it will not happen…that people would adhere to the postings, and let these creatures remain “Wild”.

    • Well, it sounds like “the idiot” (love that!) may have learned the hard way that Mooch was a WILD dolphin!!! I imagine Mooch was so used to be being fed that he mistook hands for food often. He was probably always starving if he lost his natural instinct to hunt on his own. Thank you for the story and for visiting!

  4. seathechange says:

    That’s really sad… but it’s a common problem all around the world, especially with bottlenose dolphins. I wrote a blog earlier this year about why feeding dolphins – or indeed any animals in the wild – isn’t good for them. You can check it out if you like: http://seathechange.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/dont-feed-the-dolphins-they-can-learn-bad-habits-from-each-other/.
    I’m based in Australia but I hope one day to come over to Florida to visit the Everglades and see the famed marine wildlife you have there. I hope that people start taking notice of the signs and learn from this death. It would be such a shame for more animals to learn how to beg and begin this spiral of dependency too.

  5. drose4 says:

    It’s a shame people don’t realize the damage they cause when they feed wild animals. Unfortunately what they see as helping out…can in the long run, cause their demise.

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