A 40-foot sperm whale that died as it swam near the shore in Pompano Beach has washed ashore at the International Fishing Pier in Deerfield Beach.
Deerfield Beach lifeguards roped the whale carcass so the animal can be allowed to slowly drift away from the fishing pier toward the shore, where yellow police tape has been set up.
Early reports say the whale may have been harassed by swimmers over the weekend as it died.
Broward Sheriff's Office deputies are on the scene, and state wildlife officials have been notified.
According to a report by WTVJ Channel 6, a witness claims to have seen swimmers approach the dying whale on Sunday, and one of them reportedly even tried to climb on top of the animal.
Marine biologist Stefan Harzen and his wife, Barbara Brunnick, were called to the scene when the whale was spotted late Sunday afternoon on the 600 block of North Ocean Boulevard, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.
Brunnick paddled out into the water to monitor the whale's movements and identified it as a sperm whale.
"There is very little you can do for a whale that is ill or seriously injured," Harzen said.
As for the reports of the animal being harassed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it is investigating.
"Alive or dead, either way, it is illegal and a federal offense to harm an endangered species," said southeast regional stranding coordinator Blair Mase.
"To get on top of a whale like that could have caused further stress and contributed to its demise."
Scientists are expected to examine the animal to determine the cause of death.
Update: City Mayor Peggy Noland says she won't allow the animal to be autopsied on the beach, claiming that "the stench would be incredible."
Mase says the mayor's concern is legitimate, but examining the dead whale will help scientists learn its cause of death, as well as other valuable information.
Noland says a city-paid tugboat has been called in to haul the carcass out to sea.
NOAA scientists will be allowed to take some samples from the animal before and after it is taken away.
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