HOUSTON, Texas -- A sick dolphin stranded on a Texas beach died after beachgoers reportedly tried to push it back into the water so they could swim with it and ride on top of it, the non-profit Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network says.
"She was ultimately stranded and was further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach where she later died before rescuers could arrive on scene," the network wrote in a post on Facebook.
Quintana Beach County Park officials said the animal became stranded on the shore south of Houston on Sunday evening. According to Brazoria County, park staff were called to keep the public away from the dolphin, but it died before rescuers could arrive from Galveston.
"By then the perpetrators were long [gone] and the animal was dead," Quintana Beach County Park officials said, calling the event "a tragedy."
The dolphin was taken for a necropsy, a non-human autopsy, to see why it had become stranded, the county said.
Experts said that this type of harassment causes stress to wild dolphins and may also cause harm to people who interact with them.
This type of harassment is also illegal. Those who interact can be fined or even receive jail time.
The non-profit marine mammal group says people should not swim or interact with a stranded dolphin or whale, nor should they try to push them back to sea. Marine Mammal Protection Act regulations prohibit feeding and harassing marine mammals in the wild. Instead, you are urged to call 1-800-9MAMMAL.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which works with the Texas nonprofit, says to stay at least 50 yards away from such creatures.
NOAA officials said they were aware of the dolphin's death and are seeking information about it, CNN reported.
ABC13 contributed to this post.