Authorities are investigating a report that swimmers attempted to ride a dying sperm whale in Florida. The whale's carcass was found Monday at Deerfield Beach, just off the pier.
The whale was spotted off the coast of Pompano Beach on Sunday afternoon according to reports. Margie Casey, who filed the report, alleged that she took photos of two swimmers, who neared the whale and attempted to ride atop of it. At the time, the whale was still moving its tail, prompting the woman to believe that it was still alive.
"So sad," Casey told a local NBC station, adding that the whale was probably on her "last leg."
The whale was about 40 feet away form the shore according to officials. Sperm whales typically stay further out to sea; the stranded whale had probably only neared the shore because it was either sick or injured. Harassing a marine animal is a federal offense according to Blair Mase, NOAA's southeast regional stranding coordinator.
"People need to be aware that they shouldn't do that," Mase told NBC.
"This whale was likely ill or injured and that is why it came in so close to shore," she added. "This type of harassment could have caused more harm and added stress to an already stressed whale and ultimately caused its demise."
Other experts, however, suggested that it was difficult to help an ailing whale and that typically, little can be done. Researchers plan doing a full necropsy report on the whale, to discover its cause of death. In the meantime, police are investigating the photos that Casey captured of the two swimmers riding the whale.
"Getting within 100 yards of marine mammals is illegal, and the limits are even stricter for more seriously endangered species," a CBS report noted.
Casey alleged that the swimmers approached the whale twice.