An eight-month-old humpback whale was washed ashore on Bald Head Island this Thursday, but scientists and the authorities removed the dead animal the next day.
The female was found on South Beach while it was still alive. However, according to Amber Walter, Conservancy specialist, the humpback died two hours later. The investigation was conducted Friday by the Wilmington’s Marine Mammal Stranding team.
According to team leader Bill McLellan, scientists collected samples from the 28-foot whale, and they established that it weighed around 6,000 pounds. McLellan added that the whale most likely died after being attacked by killer whales.
He and his colleagues found many bites on the animal which had a fractured jaw. Also, there were no signs that the whale had been hit by a boat. Researchers concluded that the whale hadn’t eaten for a while before it died as it was very emaciated.
A full necropsy revealed that the whale had an abscess in its mouth as well. Two backhoes were used to move the carcass, while the remains were buried in an isolated area to prevent the smell from disturbing the residents.
The humpback’s jaw and skull will be exhumed after a while and will be used for exhibit. According to McLellan, whales are a common presence in North Carolina waters these months. During the mating season, they can be found in the Caribbean, while in the winter, they feed and give birth near the North Carolina coast.
Another humpback was washed ashore this year on January 27 at Kure Beach. Such events have occurred quite often lately, as other whales were found dead on the United States beaches during the past several months.
On May 11, last year, two other marine animals were washed ashore on Bald Head Island after the Tropical Storm Ana. A bottlenose female dolphin was found stranded and alive on East Beach, but scientists had to euthanize the animal because it was in bad condition.
The second animal was an adult beaked whale found dead on the Brunswick County island. Another bottlenose male dolphin was stranded on Kure Beach on July 10th, 2015 but died despite experts’ efforts. The animal had superficial shark bites on its body. However, out of all such incidents, humpback whales account for the highest numbers.
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