BRIGANTINE, N.J. (CBS) – Federal agents are looking for whoever shot a whale at sea, probably sometime before Labor Day. The mammal beached itself two weeks ago in North Jersey and only now is word getting out about how it died.

The 11-foot-long short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) landed on a beach north of Asbury Park on September 24th. Only through a necropsy did investigators discover that the animal had taken a bullet to the jaw.

Bob Schoelkopf, of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, in Brigantine, says the animal never had a chance.

“The animal spent quite a long, agonizing time at sea, not able to eat because of the fracture and infection to the jaw. So it just slowly but surely wasted away,” Schoelkopf told KYW Newsradio this morning.

He estimates the whale lost 300 pounds in the course of a month.

Although the mammal beached itself in New Jersey, the shooting could have occurred anywhere, although Schoelkopf suggests it might have come from somewhere north, even as far up as Canada.

In this country, shooting a whale is a crime, punishable by fines up to $100,000 and jail time up to a year. But finding that individual will be difficult. In fact, it usually takes a disgruntled shipmate to rat them out.

Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio 1060