- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) - A badly decomposed whale that had been floating offshore for at least three days washed up on a beach Wednesday, prompting a hurried effort to dismember and haul away the putrid 43-foot carcass.

Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center, said the whale may have been a Sei whale, but the poor condition of the carcass made a firm identification difficult. For the same reasons, he said, it will be difficult to determine how the whale died.

“It has been so chewed up. The sharks have really been tearing it up,” he said.

The dead whale was first reported by a passing cruise ship three days ago off the coast of New York, and it had been in the surf the last few days.

The animal washed ashore Wednesday morning in Toms River, a few miles from Seaside Heights.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the Sei whale is one of the fastest whales, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph. Sei whales inhabit all oceans and adjoining seas except in tropical and polar regions, the organization said.

Authorities roped the carcass off with crime scene tape to keep a crowd of onlookers at a distance.

Technicians from the stranding center used giant knives atop 6-foot-long wooden poles to slice the whale into smaller pieces. Schoelkopf estimated the whale weighed between 40 to 50 tons,

Public works crews then used front-end loaders to drag and carry the pieces away for disposal in an as-yet undetermined location. Schoelkopf said the animal posed a health hazard to beachgoers and needed to be disposed of.

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Follow Wayne Parry at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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