40-foot sperm whale dies, removed from Deerfield beach

Pompano Beach, Fla. -—  The carcass of a 40-foot sperm whale was found early Monday at the International Fishing Pier in Deerfield Beach.

It is believed to be the same whale that died as it neared the beach Sunday afternoon after being spotted offshore of nearby Pompano Beach.

Deputies from the Broward Sheriff's Office are on the scene and state wildlife officials have been notified.

By shortly after 9 a.m., two lifeguards from Deerfield Beach had lashed one end of a rope to the tail of the whale carcass and the other end to a backhoe on shore.  The animal was allowed to slowly drift away from the fishing pier.

The waves are gradually pushing the carcass toward the shore where yellow crime scene tape is keeping curious bystanders at a distance.

Meanwhile, authorities will be investigating reports that swimmers may have harassed the whale as it drifted offshore near death on Sunday.

A Pompano Beach woman said she witnessed two swimmers approach the whale and one of them attempted to climb on it, WTVJ-Ch. 6 reported.

Blair Mase, southeast regional stranding coordinator or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said those reports would be investigated.

"Alive or dead, either way, it is illegal and a federal offense to harm an endangered species," said Mase. "You wonder people are thinking.  It was in close to shore for a reason.

"To get on top of a whale like that could have caused further stress and contributed to its demise."

Late Sunday afternoon the apparently dead whale was last seen drifting out to sea – but only after the episode had drawn the attention of beachgoers and scientists.

"There is very little you can do for a whale that is ill or seriously injured," said Stefan Harzen, a marine biologist from Jupiter who responded to the scene offshore from Northeast 10th Street.

Harzen's wife, Barbara Brunnick, also a marine biologists, paddled out to a Broward Sheriff's boat monitoring the whale's movements and made the identification.

The whale was spotted about noon offshore near the 600 block of North Ocean Boulevard, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Also responding were two members of the Marine Animal Rescue Society, David Bremer and Kim Geng.

Officers from the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission were also at the scene.

Although pilot whales occasionally strand themselves in South Florida — a pod of 22 came ashore in September in Saint Lucie County — sperm whales are rarely seen close to shore, said Harzen, who works with the Taras Oceanographic Foundation in Jupiter.

Assuming the dead whale at the pier in Deerfield Beach is the same one, scientists may have an opportunity to learn what caused its death.

A YouReporter furnished one of the photos of the whale

Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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