FAIRFIELD TWP. -- A humpback whale has been found dead along the shoreline of the Cohansey River in Cumberland County.
The whale is the same injured one that was seen about three weeks ago in the Delaware Bay but then disappeared, according to Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center based in Brigantine.
According to Schoelkopf, the Stranding Center received a call from PSEG Nuclear that a whale was seen "rolling around," in front of the cooling water intakes at its Artificial Island nuclear generating station
Schoelkopf said it was "very unusual" to see a humpback whale in the waters near Artificial Island. He said the whale appeared to be acting strangely.
"We normally don't see them in an area like that."
In security video from the Island, Schoelkopf said it could be seen that the whale's flipper was injured.
The whale later disappeared before it was found dead in the Cohansey River. The Cohansey empties into the Delaware Bay.
He estimates the whale is about 30 to 35 feet long and probably weighs eight to 10 tons. Its age is hard to estimate, he said Monday.
There are no plans to remove the whale from along the river.
Ed Hymer of nearby Stow Creek Township had been told about the dead whale by friends who are local muskrat trappers and took his boat out with his girlfriend Kelli Bosewell into the Cohansey this weekend to see it.
Hymer said the whale is about a mile south of Hancock Harbor Marina. The mammal is grounded on the Fairfield Township side of the river, he said.
"It's neat to see, but sad to see such an animal dead," Hymer said Monday. "I just couldn't believe how big it was. It was just huge."
Hymer was able to photograph the whale. In one picture the whale's injured flipper can be seen.
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Schoelkopf said officials at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center were notified the whale was in the Cohansey by a hunter.
He said while center workers were able to see the animal and take some photographs, most of its body was under water. He said unique markings on the whale's tail helped them identify it as the one seen earlier in the bay.
What caused the whale to die is unknown, but Schoelkopf said the flipper injury is unlikely the reason the whale died.
Because of its location officials were unable to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.
Hymer, who is a part-time commercial crabber, says he remembers as a kid his father telling him of a pilot whale that had died and was beached along the Delaware Bay years ago.
But a whale in the Cohansey River is something you never expect, Hymer said.
"It's so out of place. You never see anything like it there (in the river)."
Bill Gallo Jr. may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Bill Gallo Jr. on Twitter @bgallojr. Find NJ.com on Facebook.</em
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