Law enforcement officials in Southern Florida are investigating a report that local beach-goers at Pampano Beach may have been trying to ride a dying Sperm whale, which is on the endangered species list.
Authorities discovered a Sperm whale carcass about 40 feet from the International Fishing Pier in Deerfield Beach, after it was spotted on Sunday afternoon, according to CBS.
The police report was filed by Margie Casey, who claimed she had taken photographs of two swimmers, as they tried to ride on top of the whale. At the time, Casey said that she saw the whale moving its tail, which led her to believe it was still living.
"So sad," she said in an interview with a local NBC station. Casey said at first when she saw the swimmers on the whale she assumed it was probably on its "last leg."
Casey reported seeing the swimmers approach the whale twice, and her testimony could result in legal charges against the alleged perpetrators. Blair Mase, the southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the whale probably came near shore because it had been sick or injured, and the actions of the swimmers could have aggravated the whale's condition. Mase added that such harassment constitutes a federal offense.
"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."
Getting within 100 yards of marine mammals is illegal, and the limits are even stricter for more seriously endangered species, a CBS News report said.
While police review the photos of the swimmers taken by Casey, Mase said that researchers plan to conduct a full necropsy report on the whale back on shore. She said there are "too many sharks" to conduct the report out at sea. Although the findings are still preliminary, Mase said that researchers did observe "some unusual markings" on the whale, suggesting that it might have been struck by a boat.
In October, a Florida woman was arrested for riding a manatee at Fort DeSoto Park.