AUSTIN, Texas — Stay away from the too-friendly dolphin.
Officials have identified an animal that has gotten a bit pushy in the water off of North Padre Island, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a press release.
North Padre Island is about 20 miles east of Corpus Christi.
“Biologists report the animal is showing more aggressive behavior, separating children from their parents in the water, and isolating swimming pets from their owners,” said the latest release issued on Thursday.
The problem is that people have been feeding, swimming and playing with the dolphin for more than a year despite warnings from biologists, law enforcement and residents to stay away from it, according to the release.
It said that the dolphin “has become so used to humans that it now seeks out people, boats, and any form of interaction.”
The mammal also has wounds caused by boats and there are concerns about its safety, officials said.
People are being asked to leave the dolphin alone. Boaters are asked to avoid stopping if the dolphin comes to close and to slowly move away.
Swimmers are being asked to leave the water if they see the dolphin, the release said.
“While the dolphin may seem friendly, this is a wild animal with unpredictable behavior,” according to NOAA. It is showing behaviors similar to other lone, sociable dolphins worldwide, officials said.
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Those behaviors, according to the release, include following boats and people, losing its natural wariness and starting to play with and swim with people,
The dolphin in now in the last stage of these behaviors which include showing dominant and aggressive behavior toward people, according to NOAA.
NOAA and biologists are working to determine how to protect the dolphin.
Any interaction with the dolphin that may injure or change its behaviors is considered to be harassment and is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Feeding or attempting to feed wild dolphins is also illegal.
Violations can be reported to NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. Violations are punishable by a fine up to $100,000 up to 1 year in jail.