BARNEGAT LIGHT — The beach where a 15-ton humpback whale was found on Christmas Day turned out to be its final resting place.

The dead, frozen, juvenile whale was the fourth whale to wash up onto a Jersey Shore beach this year, according to Marine Mammal Stranding Center executive director Bob Schoelkopf, who estimated it had been dead for a week.

Schoelkopf on Monday morning told New Jersey 101.5 a team from the center was on the 31-foot whale, cutting off layers of blubber and skin before it was buried in a hole dug by two frontend loaders. A crew from Long Beach Township was doing the work for the state Department of Environmental Protection because they don't have the equipment.

By early afternoon, the burial was complete with a stench in the air the only evidence of a whale having been there.

The whale was frozen solid and could not be cut into pieces for removal, as is commonly done in other cases in which dead whales wash ashore.

Schoelkopf said it doesn't appear the whale had any human interaction and hoped the contents of its stomach from the past few weeks would give a clue as to what caused its death.

Schoelkopf said whales are attracted to the shoreline by the easy availability of food.

In June, a whale came down on a boat in Seaside Park, capsizing it and launching two fishermen into the water. The whale was lunge feeding. So as it came up, getting a large mouthful of water and fish, it leapt into the air, then came crashing down on the boat.

Previous reporting by Jen Ursillo was used in this report

(Includes material copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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