Sperm Whale Found at Gateway Beach: Investigation to Reveal Cause of Death

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Date: February 12, 2009
Contact: Brian Feeney, 718-354-4607

On Wednesday, February 11, a 13-foot female Sperm Whale was found beached on the shores of the Breezy Point Tip, Rockaway, NY, an area that is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. According to witnesses it washed up around 10 a.m. and was still alive. National Park Service rangers were immediately dispatched to the scene, but upon arrival they discovered that the whale had expired.

Gateway officials contacted the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and  Preservation, a Long Island based stranding and research facility, to assist with the investigation. On Thursday, February 12 marine biologists did a preliminary examination of the deceased animal on the beach, but later transported the remains to their research facility at the Atlantis Marine World aquarium in Riverhead to conduct a detailed necropsy.

The whale it thought to be less than a year old, and the initial investigation showed no signs of a boat strike or other trauma. The whale did exhibit some signs of malnutrition, which could mean that it died after being separated from its mother. The necropsy should reveal a conclusive cause of death.

In 2004, a larger, older Sperm Whale washed ashore in the Fort Tilden area of the park. This whale also did not survive. Sperm Whales do not live near the coast, but generally live in deep waters far from land.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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