As the Internet awaits a possible whale explosion in a small Canadian town, another of the marine mammals washed up dead in New Jersey. Then, to add insult to injury, its belly was tagged with graffiti.
Boardwalk patrol stumbled on the two-ton minke whale below an Atlantic City pier during a routine beach walk on Thursday morning. The purple markings appeared to say “Tau Epsilon Phi,” followed by what looked like the number 94.
Photos of the defaced carcass have been turned over to Atlantic City police for investigation. The animal, dead or alive, is federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Among other threats (including, apparently, vandals), fishing gear and other cables have been known to hurt minke whales in both U.S. and Canadian waters.
While no one has been prosecuted, New York–based Tau Epsilon Phi, which has members at Rowan University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers University, has come under fire. The group has yet to comment.
“To do [that to] a dead animal, that’s ridiculous,” Marine Mammal Stranding Center’s Bob Schoelkopf told Philly.com. He was part of the crew that buried the whale near the boardwalk because it was too heavy to move. Though the animal showed no signs of trauma, scientists on the scene took sections of it to determine how it died.
Just a few blocks away the same morning, a dead common dolphin was found. Schoelkopf said the two deaths don’t appear to be connected, and that washed-up marine mammals aren’t unusual. A recent storm likely carried the whale, which appeared to have been dead for many days, to shore.