BRIGANTINE — As powerful hurricanes and storms have wreaked havoc along the East Coast, their impact on the ocean is also being felt — as several animals have washed up along the Jersey shore this week alone.

Bob Schoelkopf of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said give animals have washed up so far this month, either already dead or soon to be euthanized.

The first reported beaching was of a bottle nosed dolphin in Sea Bright on Oct.  3, which Schoelkopf said was determined to be a "fresh dead animal." The next day in Brigantine a female pygmy sperm whale washed ashore in the afternoon and was euthanized. Schoelkopf said four hours later, an infant pygmy sperm whale also washed ashore and had to be euthanized as well.

A second bottle-nosed dolphin came ashore on Oct. 8 in Sea Isle City. Schoelkopf said this animal died a shore time after washing up on the beach. A medical examination determined it had died from encephalitis, though Schoelkopf said it was also in "poor nutritional health."

The most recent beaching happened on Monday, when a third bottle-nosed dolphin washed up in Sea Girt. Schoelkopf said this dolphin had been dead for a while and that a cause of death could not be determined because it was decomposing when it was found. He said it is not believed that the dolphins came from the same pod, based on the amount of time that passed between their coming on the beach.

"We've had almost three weeks of heavy surf offshore. This is hard enough on a healthy animal population," he said. "When you have animals that are in a weakened state, or traveling with infants it becomes very difficult for them, not only swimming ability, but also finding food in those conditions as well."

While five animals washing up on shore in a week is unusual, Schoelkopf said he believes if the seas had been calmer this would not have been as much of an issue.

"Everything that came up the coast after they turned from hurricanes into tropical depressions, the currents were still strong, the seas were rough," he said. "As we speak today there's still heavy seas out there. It wouldn't be surprising if one or two more weakened animals do come ashore somewhere along the line here."

With the warm weather expected to continue and people still going to the beach Schoelkopf said anyone who does come across a washed up animal should call the center or their local police departments. The 24-hour hotline to report a stranding is 609-266-0538.

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