40-foot sperm whale dies, to be towed out to sea

Deerfield mayor doesn't want necropsy on sand

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.-- The carcass of a 40-foot sperm that washed up early Monday next to the fishing pier was to be towed out to sea after city mayor Peggy Noland refused to allow government scientists to cut the animal open and perform a necropsy on the sand.

"No way are we going to let them do that," said Noland.

"I understand the science, but we can't allow them to cut this mammoth animal open on our beach.  The stench would be incredible," said said.

"Cut him open, and then cut the head off?  I don't think so," Noland added.

Blair Mase, southeast regional stranding coordinator or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said she understood the mayor's concern "from a public relations standpoint."

"It's the height of Christmas season, there are a lot of people in town, and I could see how the mayor would be uncomfortable having a whale on the beach.

"But," said Mase, "it would provide invaluable information from a conservation perspective. We need to know the cause of death."

 As the whale's body lay in the surf just north of the pier at midday Monday, Noland said a tugboat was being summoned to haul the carcass off the beach.  Earlier efforts to drag it out of the water using two front end loaders failed.

Noland said the city would pay for the tugboat.

Mase said NOAA scientists would be able to do some sampling of the remains before it is hauled to sea, and later when it is offshore.

Meanwhile, authorities will be investigating reports that swimmers may have harassed the whale as it slowly died while drifting 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.

Mase 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."

Last month a Pinellas County woman photographed riding an endangered manatee in violation of state law was arrested on misdemeanor charges.  Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, told police that she was new to the area and did not know that it was illegal to "annoy, molest, harass or disturb" the endangered aquatic mammal.

Photographer Joe Cavaretta contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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