A dead female 28-foot humpback whale was found floating in Lloyd Harbor over the weekend.It is the seventh large-sized whale to have washed up in New York this year — five of which were humpback whales, according to Rachel Bosworth, a spokesperson for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation foundation. And it could have been one of several spotted swimming in Hempstead Harbor recently, she said. The foundation is a nonprofit that operates the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
The whale died of blunt force trauma, a necropsy performed by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation revealed on Sunday.
“A cause of death has not been determined as of now but they’re going to continue an investigation to see if this is also one of the whales spotted swimming in Hempstead Harbor,” Bosworth said.
The animal was spotted 150 yards offshore Woodland Drive in Lloyd Harbor on Saturday morning. Town spokesman A.J. Carter said a resident called at about 10:30 to 11 a.m. reporting a “whale in distress.” The town harbormaster’s office responded and worked with the foundation, along with the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Eatons Neck.
Town officials towed the large animal over to the U.S. Coast Guard Station, where the necropsy was conducted. It’s general rule of thumb that a whale weighs a foot per ton, so the animal weighed about 28 tons, according to Bosworth.
“The biologists, interns, and volunteers from the Riverhead foundation completed an external and internal exam to document the whale, and also determine a possible cause of death,” Bosworth said in a statement describing the incident. “There is evidence of blunt force trauma on the right side of the whale’s body.”
By “blunt force trauma,” that could mean a large vessel that struck the whale, Bosworth said. But because of where the whale washed up, officials aren’t exactly sure that’s what caused the whale’s death — because the area it was spotted floating in doesn’t really have those kinds of vessels, she said.
Lately the foundation’s gotten calls, photos and videos from members of the public who’ve been spotting whales further west on Long Island — in the eastern Nassau/western Suffolk region, she said. The foundation had been monitoring reports of three humpback whales swimming in Hempstead Harbor and Bosworth said officials are looking into whether this female whale was one of them.
“We’ve been seeing a lot more activity and we think one of the main reasons is there’s a larger food source out here right now,” she said.
It’s not rare for whales to be in New York waters. It might just be that more people are out on the water and seeing them.
Last year’s whale figures pale in comparison to this year. Last year, two large whales were “stranded” in New York — meaning they washed up either dead or alive. There was a third in New Jersey that the foundation assisted with, but it doesn’t count towards New York numbers.
The foundation advises that it’s important for the public to remain at a minimum of 50 yards away from all marine animals, for the safety of the public and the animals. All sightings should be reported to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation by calling the group’s 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829. Photos and videos are also very helpful for the foundation to identify and document animals, and can be emailed to [email protected].