Rare stranding may yield clues to little-known whale

By on August 22, 2011

(Outer Banks Marine Mammal Stranding Network photo)

Marine experts say last week’s stranding of a True’s beaked whale on the Currituck Outer Banks was a rare event, but they are using the opportunity to learn more about the marine mammal.

The Outer Banks Marine Mammal Stranding Network said the whale was spotted on the beach in the Ocean Hill section of Corolla on August 16.

Shortly thereafter staff from the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles, and the the stranding network arrived on the scene.

Despite the efforts of the three teams, other volunteers and beachgoers, the whale died a short time later.

At the recommendation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the North Carolina Marine Mammal Stranding Partners, it was decided to move the animal to a facility that could conduct a necropsy.

Corolla Construction and A-1 Towing of Corolla provided heavy equipment, and with members of the Currituck Sheriff’s Department helping, the whale was moved off the beach to a waiting flatbed truck with biologists from UNC Wilmington. They took it they to N.C. State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh.

According to the Convention on Migratory Species, only about 20 known strandings of True’s beaked whales have been reported worldwide. There is very little known about the behavior of True’s beaked whales, and they are rarely spotted at sea.

A pod of three True’s beaked whales was located in about 600 fathoms of water well off Hatteras Inlet in May 1993. The whales range runs the width of the northern Atlantic Ocean from Florida north to Nova Scotia.

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