American Oceans

How Dolphins Can Be Dangerous to Humans

Are dolphins dangerous? It’s a question that has been asked many times before. Dolphins are known for their friendly and playful nature, but can they be dangerous to humans?

Common Bottlenose Dolphin swimming underwater

The answer is not a straightforward one. While dolphins are generally not considered dangerous, there have been instances where they have attacked humans.

It’s important to note that most dolphin attacks happen when humans provoke or agitate the animals.

Dolphins are curious creatures and may approach humans to investigate them, but this does not necessarily mean they are looking to harm them.

However, if a human were to grab onto a dolphin or try to ride it, the animal may become stressed and lash out in self-defense.

In some cases, dolphins have even attacked humans who were trying to rescue them. So while dolphins are not inherently dangerous, it’s important to treat them with respect and caution.

Overview of Dolphins

person feeding bottlenose dolphin to eat fish

When you think of dolphins, the first thing that comes to mind is their friendly and playful nature.

Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals that love to perform acrobatic feats and interact with humans and other animals. They are known for their affectionate behavior towards humans and their natural environment.

Dolphins are social animals that live in groups called pods. They communicate with each other using a complex system of clicks, whistles, and body language.

They are also known for their ability to swim at high speeds, jump out of the water, and perform other impressive maneuvers.

Despite their friendly nature, it is important to remember that dolphins are still wild animals and should be treated with respect. It is not recommended to approach or touch wild dolphins in their natural environment. This can cause stress and disrupt their natural behavior.

In captivity, dolphins are often trained to perform tricks and interact with humans. While this can be entertaining to watch, it is important to consider the welfare of the dolphins.

Some experts argue that keeping dolphins in captivity can cause physical and psychological harm to the animals.

Recorded Dolphin Attacks

bottlenose dolphins are carnivorous type of marine animals

Dolphin attacks on humans are rare, but they do happen. In 2019, a woman named Valerie Ryan was bitten by a dolphin while swimming in Hawaii.

The attack caused internal injuries, including spinal fractures, broken ribs, and a damaged lung. In some cases, dolphins have been known to use their tails as a defense mechanism, which can cause blunt-force trauma.

While it is not common for dolphins to attack humans, there have been instances where they have shown aggressive behavior towards people.

In some cases, dolphins have attacked boats or interacted with humans in territorial ways. However, these incidents are relatively rare and are often the result of human interaction with wild animals.

Reasons for Dolphin Attacks

Clymene Dolphin swimming under the ocean

There are several reasons why dolphins may attack humans. One reason is that they may feel threatened or agitated by human presence.

Dolphins are wild animals and may see humans as a potential threat to their territory or prey. In some cases, dolphins may also attack humans as a form of play or amusement, which can be dangerous due to their size and strength.

Another reason why dolphins may attack humans is that they may be protecting their young. Dolphin mothers are known to be fiercely protective of their babies and may attack humans if they feel that their offspring are in danger.

Despite the rare instances of dolphin attacks on humans, it is important to remember that these animals are not predators or killers.

Dolphins are intelligent and social animals that are often misunderstood. While they can cause damage and pain, they are not inherently dangerous to humans.

In contrast, sharks are responsible for more annual attacks on humans than dolphins. Sharks are more aggressive than dolphins and are known to attack humans even when unprovoked. Dolphins, on the other hand, rarely attack humans unprovoked.

In conclusion, while dolphin attacks on humans are rare, they can be dangerous. It is important to remember that dolphins are wild animals and should be treated with respect.

Interacting with dolphins in their natural habitat can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to do so responsibly and with caution.

Dolphin-Human Interaction

Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus swimming under the ocean

Dolphins are known for their intelligence and friendly nature, which makes them a popular attraction for humans.

However, it is important to understand that interacting with dolphins can be dangerous for both humans and the marine animals.

Swimming with Dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is a popular activity that allows humans to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures.

However, it is important to note that dolphins are wild animals and can be unpredictable. While they may seem friendly, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened or provoked.

It is recommended to only swim with dolphins in a controlled environment, such as a dolphin sanctuary or a reputable tour company that follows strict guidelines for dolphin-human interaction.

Keep a safe distance from the dolphins and avoid touching them, as this can cause stress and harm to the animals.

Feeding Dolphins

Feeding dolphins is another popular activity that can be dangerous for both humans and the animals.

Dolphins have a natural diet of fish and other marine life, and feeding them human food can cause digestive problems and other health issues.

In addition, feeding dolphins can cause them to become dependent on humans for food, which can lead to aggressive behavior and other negative consequences.

It is important to never feed wild dolphins and only feed captive dolphins under the supervision of trained professionals.

Interacting with Wild Dolphins

Interacting with wild dolphins can be an unforgettable experience, but it is important to approach these animals with caution and respect.

Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits harassment, feeding, and other forms of interaction that can cause harm to the animals.

If you encounter wild dolphins while swimming or boating, keep a safe distance and avoid approaching them.

Do not attempt to touch or feed them, as this can cause stress and harm to the animals. Instead, observe them from a distance and enjoy the beauty of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.


It is important to approach these creatures with caution and respect, and to only interact with them in a controlled environment or under the supervision of trained professionals.

Remember to keep a safe distance, avoid touching or feeding them, and observe them from a respectful distance.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the beauty of dolphins without causing harm to these magnificent creatures.

Real-Life Cases

bottlenose dolphin hunting fish under the sand

If you’re wondering if dolphin attacks on humans are a real thing, unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Here are a few real-life cases of dolphin attacks on humans that have been reported:

Brazil Case

In 1994, two men from São Paulo, Brazil, were swimming in the ocean when they were rammed by a dolphin.

One of the men passed away due to internal injuries sustained during the incident. This case is a tragic reminder that dolphins can be dangerous and even fatal.

São Paulo Case

Another case that occurred in São Paulo, Brazil, involved a group of swimmers who were attacked by a pod of dolphins.

The swimmers suffered injuries, including bite marks and bruises. This incident highlights the importance of respecting dolphins’ space and not approaching them too closely.

Dusty’s Case

In 2006, a female dolphin named Dusty attacked a man who was swimming in her enclosure at SeaWorld in Florida.

The man suffered multiple puncture wounds and a broken bone in his hand. Officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service investigated the incident and determined that the man had provoked the dolphin by grabbing her.

Shark Bay Case

In 2013, a group of tourists in Shark Bay, Western Australia, were attacked by a pod of dolphins. The tourists suffered injuries, including cuts and bruises.

While it’s unclear what provoked the dolphins, this incident shows that even in the wild, dolphins can be dangerous.

County Clare Case

In 2019, a man in County Clare, Ireland, was attacked by a dolphin while swimming in the ocean.

The man suffered injuries to his chest and face and was left with post-traumatic stress disorder.

This incident highlights the importance of being cautious when swimming in areas where dolphins are known to frequent.

1 comment

  • I didn’t much like what was said about sharks in this article. As we have all been hearing for years, humans are far more dangerous to sharks than sharks are to humans because we fear them and are and thus view them as bad or evil creatures. Yet far more sharks are killed by people either to get rid of them, or to cut off their fins for shark fin soup, or for other such nefarious purposes.

    Moreover, as a wildlife biologist myself, I am constantly begging people to leave wild animlas alone to live their lives without human interference. That means no feeding, no petting, no capturing and keeping as pets, and no other form of harassment or disturbance. Wild animals do not need us to feed them, or to steal their offspring because we perceive them as abandoned when, in the vast majority of cases, the adults have simply gone to find food for their young.

    I even object to bird feeding because there’s evidence — albeit limited evidence from studies of only a few different species — that birds fed over the winter start to nest too early in the spring before the giant flush of caterpillars that emerges in the temperate zone is available. They thus have lower reproductive success and year to year survival because the young have not had enough to eat and the adults have worn themselves out trying to feed their young.

    My big message to anyone who wants to benefit terrestrial wildlife is to plant native plants in your yard. There is also emerging research showing that, for example, songbirds nesting in yards with at least 40% native vegetation have far greater reproductive success and year to year survival than those in yards with mostly non-native horticultural varieties. Why? Because there is far greater diversity of insects and other invertebrates in the yards with native plants and thus more food for both the adults and their offspring.

    In sum, IF YOU LOVE WILD ANIMALS, LEAVE THEM ALONE! They’ll be fine without your help unless maybe they’ve been injured by being struck by a car or something like that, in which case, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted. Please, please, please do not try to treat them or raise young ones yourself. Even if they survive, becoming acclimated to humans does not typically turn out well for wild animals.

    Thanks for reading and considering this information. ????