A decomposing minke whale was found washed ashore this week by an Island family that was out for a walk on their Cape Higgon beach.

On a visit home from California on Monday, Holly Ganz was walking along the family’s Chilmark beach when she came across the rotting 24-foot-long whale. The rotting odor, added to by two dolphin carcasses, has been a tempting proposition for the family dogs, but officials say the whale is too far gone to be worth studying.

“It’s really intense,” said Holly’s sister Claire Ganz. “We have lived here since the ‘30s… we’ve never had this happen before.”

Though marine mammal strandings are uncommon on their beach, the Ganzs have experienced their fair share of turtles wash up over the years, and knew to immediately call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s stranded animal hotline.

“Unfortunately, there’s not much information we can get from this one,” said Ainsley Smith, the marine mammal stranding coordinator at NOAA. The stranding team was able to identify the species, but due to its advanced state of decomposition they decided that further study would not be worthwhile.

Ms. Smith did note that there has been a spate of unusual minke whale deaths over the last six years, though the cause of the elevated mortality has not yet been identified.

Still, back on the Vineyard, Claire Ganz is determined to do what she can to investigate the whale’s death, and plans to examine its body for evidence of rope burn or boat damage. After that, the carcass will be left for the scavengers, to rot away on the Island’s north shore.

“We’re going to have to let nature take its course,” she said. “We are used to dealing with whatever the sea sends our way.”