Who shot a whale and left it to suffer for a month - unable to eat - before it washed up on the New Jersey shore?
The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust want to know.
The two groups offered the $2,500 reward today, two weeks after the emaciated short-finned pilot whale washed up on a beach in Allenhurst, just north of Asbury Park, and died shortly after police responded.
A necropsy showed the whale - one of roughly 31,000 pilot whales in the western North Atlantic - had been shot in the head. The bullet lodged in the animal’s jaw, causing an infection that left it unable to eat. The wound had closed indicating the whale could have been shot as long as a month ago.
It weighed 740 pounds at its death, but should have tipped the scales at well over 1,000 pounds.
“The appallingly callous action of the person or persons responsible for this crime caused this animal to suffer immensely and die a slow death,” said Kathy Schatzmann, the Humane Society’s New Jersey director.
Whales are protected by the federal Marine Mammal act. Those convicted of the crime could face up to a year in prison and up to $100,000 fine.
Bob Schoelkopf, co-director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, told the Associated Press the whale could have been shot anywhere on the East Coast, given the amount of time that it spent losing weight before dying.
The Humane Society said thousands of poachers are arrested nationwide each year, but estimated that only 1 to 5 percent of all poached animals ever come to the attention of law enforcement.
Anyone with information in the whale shooting case is asked to call Matthew Gilmore, a special agent with the National Oceanographic and Oceanic Administration at (732) 280-6490, or the agency’s national hotline at 1-800-853-1964.