A man who cut off the tail of a dead whale that had washed up on a Florida beach was detained by police Thursday, the Sun Sentinel reported.

Chris Hogan, 60, said he spotted the whale, which appeared to be a pygmy or dwarf sperm whale, lying dead about 100 feet from the surf at Delray Beach.

He decided to use a fishing knife to cut off the tail of the seven-foot (2m) whale and planned to take it home and eat it.

"The thing was deader than a doornail," Hogan said. "I'd probably broil or fry it."

Police detained Hogan, and another man, for questioning, explaining that mutilating a federally protected species is illegal, even if the animal is found dead.