Signs Of Blunt Force Trauma To Dead Whale

By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Biologists from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation examine a whale that died in Huntington Harbor this weekend. Photo by Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservatio

Biologists from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation examine a whale that died in Huntington Harbor this weekend. Photo by Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservatio

A 28-foot female humpback whale carcass found off Lloyd Harbor this weekend shows signs of blunt force trauma, a representative from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation said Monday.

On Saturday, a Lloyd Harbor resident spotted a whale in distress approximately 150 yards off shore, near Woodland Drive, and made a call to the Town of Huntington around 10:30 a.m. The town harbormasters office responded to the call and determined the whale was dead, said Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter.

That same day, the whale was towed by Huntington Bay constables, and taken to the United States Coast Guard’s Eatons Neck station. Towing the female humpback began around 1 p.m. and ended at the USCG boat ramp.

After the Riverhead Foundation was notified of the incident, biologists, interns and volunteers conducted a necropsy Sunday afternoon. The team completed an external and internal exam to document the whale, and to determine the cause of death, Rachel Bosworth, spokeswoman for the Riverhead foundation, said in an email.

Since the whale was not sexually mature, the whale was a juvenile and less than five years of age, she added.

The evidence of blunt force trauma was on the right side of the whale’s body, Bosworth said, which could have resulted from the whale being struck by a large vessel or a cargo ship.

“Human causes, such as a vessel strike, are always a concern for these marine animals,” Bosworth said, adding that this is an unfortunate and common cause of death for whales. “Part of the foundation's mission is to educate the public and urge them to be cautious and mindful that these animals are present.”

However, the investigation is still ongoing and could take several weeks to determine an exact cause of death.

“They’re going to be working with Huntington town, Lloyd Harbor and the coast guard to see if there had been any large vessels in the area recently that could have hit this whale,” Bosworth said.

This is the seventh time a whale washed ashore in New York this year. Five of those whales were humpbacks. The foundation asks that anyone with photos/videos of recent whale activity email them to sightings@riverheadfoundation.org.

“By analyzing documentation of the humpback whales recently spotted swimming in western Long Island waters, the foundation will identify if this deceased whale is among the ones that had been sighted recently,” Bosworth said.

There have been several whale sightings in the Town of Huntington, including one that was reported by Long Islander News in late September. According to the report, passengers on the James Joseph Fishing charter boat witnessed three whales feeding in the Long Island Sound off Huntington Harbor.