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!
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: