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Preliminary results from the necropsy of a male humpback on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska found signs of hemorrhage, bruising, and a fractured skull—indications of trauma likely caused by a vessel strike.
“Confirmation of cause of death is pending lab results, which won’t be available for at least six months,” said Kate Savage, the lead veterinarian for the necropsy.
Savage and her team of 9—including a bear guard—were greeted by numerous bald eagles feeding on the whale carcass, but no bears, when they arrived at a beach at Point Young on Admiralty Island early Saturday morning. After a brief squall, the team got to work taking measurements and collecting tissues from the subadult humpback. They collected multiple samples which will be used to determine the cause of the death as well as an ear plug which will be used to age the animal.
Analysis of photos taken of the whale over the past week since it was first reported Sunday, May 27 put the timeframe of death within a week before that first report.
NOAA has received no recent reports of any vessel striking a whale. The agency’s Office of Law Enforcement is looking into the matter.
Savage thanked Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska Seaplanes for assistance in re-sighting and confirming the location of the whale carcass so a necropsy could be performed, as well as Alaska Sea-to-Shore for providing boat transportation to Point Young for the necropsy team.
She also thanked the public for their help.
“The quicker we get reports on marine mammal strandings, the more information we can get when we perform a necropsy, so we certainly appreciate timely reports from the public in a case like this,” she added.
If you see a whale or other marine mammal in distress, call the NOAA Fisheries Alaska 24-hour Stranding Hotline at (877) 925-7773.
Source: NOAA Fisheries
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