A second rare beaked whale—this one smaller with what appeared to be a gash on its head—washed ashore in Bridgehampton between Mecox and Scott Cameron beaches off Dune Road Monday morning, puzzling researchers.
Officials from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation reported to the scene at about 11:30 a.m. and identified the mammal as the second of its species to be spotted on beaches in Southampton in two days.
James Sullivan, a stranding technician for the Foundation, said the whale was a juvenile and measured about 6.5 feet long.
“It’s the first I’ve seen in six years,” he said. “These guys should be a lot further out.”
He explained that biologists would conduct a necropsy at the Riverhead Foundation headquarters at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead. A portion of the mammal would also be transported to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for further research in Massachusettes.
“The big question is whether or not this correlates with the problems with the dolphin die-offs,” Mr. Sullivan said, referring to the unusually high number of dolphin strandings and deaths on the east coast last summer.
Southampton Town Highway Department workers were called in to help transport the whale to the Riverhead Foundation headquarters.
UPDATE, 5 p.m.:
On Monday, the whale will undergo a necropsy so that biologists can discover what made her ill, according to Ms. Durham. There is no indication that the whale came into contact with a fishery or a ship, she said.
The animal, a True’s beak whale, was a young adult female, weighing approximately 1 ton and measuring 15 feet in length.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had asked other institutions to notify them of such a discovery so that their biologists could better understand this particular species, Ms. Durham said. Woods Hole plans to use a CT scan so that even more information can be gathered about the whale.
“The information from that alone is tremendous, so we’re happy to do that,” she added.
Ms. Durham said she planned to take measurements of the skull Sunday night and send over the information to Woods Hole on Monday.
She said mostly what is known about True’s beak whales is that they typically stay way offshore and grow to about 5 meters in length.
This particular whale was younger and thin.
“She shouldn’t have been that skinny,” Ms. Durham said. “We’ll find out if it was parasites or disease that made her sick.”
This morning when the jogger found the whale at 8:51 a.m., it was alive. After he reported the whale and turned around to check up on it, someone had moved it back into the water. Ms. Durham said it was still alive then but it died shortly after having drifted more than half a mile. It was originally found a quarter mile west of Flying Point Beach, but then came to its final resting spot just east of Gin Lane.
“When dealing with a federally protected marine animal, we suggest not to take action until you report it,” Ms. Durham said. “More importantly, moving it is not in the animal’s best interest. The animal on the beach for a reason. There is also potential to really hurt yourself.”
She stressed the importance of calling the Foundation’s hotline, 369-9829.
Southampton Village Highway Department workers used a payloader and a backhoe to lift the whale off the beach and into a truck so that it could be transported to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation headquarters in Riverhead, where it will await a necropsy.
“They tried to get us to put it in the pickup truck and it slid right out,” Corey Swezey, a highway department employee, explained Sunday afternoon, adding that they received a few funny looks as they drove through the village with the whale on-board.
He said it was the fifth whale he has seen wash up in his 14 years with the department.
The workers said they had a bit of trouble lifting the mammal at first because the trucks sunk into the wet sand.
Ms. Durham said the village highway department did a good job hauling the whale.
“We would not have been able to remove her without their assistance,” she said.
UPDATE, 2 p.m.:
According to Kim Durham who was on the beach with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation rescue crew, the beaked whale is dead.
Ms. Durham said they received a call at 9 a.m. from a jogger that said he came across a “live dolphin” on the beach. The Foundation asked him to take photos so they could know what they’d be dealing with, but then the man said he observed someone in a white pick-up truck pushing the animal off the beach. As a result, they didn’t have any additional information and asked Southampton Village Police to report to the scene.
The Foundation plans to do a full necropsy on Monday. Ms. Durham said the animal appeared to be in ill-health.
Beaked whales are rarely encountered by humans and not much is known about them.
“Based on fact she is a beaked whale, these specimens are very hard to come by, so we don’t know to much about this type of whale,” Ms. Durham said.
The Foundation has been in contact with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, which has said that it would like to study the animal’s structure of its ears and brain.
“The community is coming together is all kind of humming trying to max and learn as much as we can from this individual,” Ms. Durham said.
A whale, likely a beaked whale, washed up on the beach off Gin Lane in Southampton Village Sunday.
The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation was on the scene Sunday afternoon.
Kim Durham, the rescue program director for the foundation, was unavailable for immediate comment since she was out with the crew.