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Nov 21, 2019 4:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Minke Whale Strands And Dies In Northwest Creek In East Hampton

A female minke whale, 16-feet in length, washed up in Northwest Creek on Thursday.  ELIZABETH VESPE
Nov 26, 2019 12:19 PM


The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society received a report of a live minke whale stranded in Northwest Creek in East Hampton at around 8 a.m. on Thursday, November 21. It later died.

The organization sent a response team to evaluate the animal, which was reported at the time to be breathing in about 2 feet of water, but not otherwise very active. Personnel from the East Hampton Marine Patrol and the State Department of Environmental Conservation were sent to the scene to make sure the whale was safe and to keep curious observers from disturbing the distressed animal.

When the conservation society team arrived, they confirmed that the animal had died and worked with Marine Patrol officials to move the whale up the beach to collect data. The minke whale was a female and 16 feet long.

Barnacles attached to the fluke and the whale’s thin body were signs that the animal may have been in poor health. The whale was moved to the East Hampton Town transfer station for a necropsy when heavy equipment was available on Friday.

The conservation society said that initial findings were consistent with diseases found in other minke whales that have stranded under what it called an “unusual mortality event,” including a minke whale that stranded in Oyster Bay in December 2018. The whale had an empty stomach, lesions on the heart and lungs consistent with the other cases of disease, and evidence in its brain that was consistent with those disease findings. The brain was collected whole to be scanned by the conservation society’s partners at the Mount Sinai School of Veterinary Medicine.

The DEC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, and the Suffolk County Parks Department all assisted in Thursday’s efforts. Members of the Shinnecock Nation also went to Northwest Creek to perform a blessing of the whale.

Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales and fairly common in the waters off Long Island. This was the second distressed whale the society responded to in one week, along with two leatherback sea turtles.

There has been an ongoing unusual mortality event in effect for minke whales along the Atlantic coast since 2017, according to the organization. It says that it is important to report all strandings of marine mammals and sea turtles to the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829. Sightings of healthy animals are critical, as well, and can be shared by emailing sightings@amseas.org.

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