Friday, July 16–Juvenile Whale Washes Up In OC

OCEAN CITY – Another
whale made a visit to Ocean City last week, but while its most recent
predecessor seemed to put on a show for residents and visitors on the beach,
the resort’s latest leviathan encounter did not have a happy ending.

Late last Thursday
afternoon, a badly decomposed 30-foot juvenile humpback whale washed ashore in
the area of 4th Street, causing quite a stir for the big early July
crowd on the beach. Ocean City Public Works crews and Beach Patrol members
helped haul the decomposed whale out of the surf’s edge initially until
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials could inspect the
mammal.

According to DNR Marine
Mammal Stranding Program Coordinator Jamie Schofield, the whale had been
spotted by anglers and recreational boaters well offshore earlier in the week
but did not wash ashore until late last Thursday afternoon. Schofield said the
condition of the whale carcass made it difficult to determine what caused its ultimate
demise.

“This animal had been
out to sea at least four days before it came ashore, four days of extreme
100-degree temperatures,” she said. “We did internal and external examinations,
but the condition of the carcass made it very difficult to determine what
caused its death.”

Schofield said the whale
showed some signs of hemorrhaging but that likely occurred as the creature was
nearing death offshore.

“We did see some
pathology and some signs of hemorrhage likely while it was still alive,” she
said. “We also saw some signs of fracture, but we aren’t sure if that occurred
before or after the animal died. We’ve been looking at photos and video of its
removal by truck from the beach to see if the fractures could have occurred
then.”

After DNR officials
performed the necropsy on the decomposed whale, the carcass was transported by
truck to an area near the Ocean City Municipal Airport in West Ocean City where
it was buried like others that had washed ashore before it.

Last week’s beaching was
the latest in a string of recent whale sightings in the resort area over the
last few months. In late June, an apparently healthy juvenile humpback
entertained the crowd on the beach when it came close to shore to feed on
menhaden within feet of swimmers in the ocean. The roughly 27-foot humpback was
first spotted by lifeguards well offshore around 50th Street, but
moved much closer to shore as it headed south, providing beachgoers with a
once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a healthy whale in its natural environment.

This spring, however, a
couple of whale encounters in the resort area did not have a similar happy
outcome. Around St. Patrick’s Day in March, a 27-foot, 10-ton humpback juvenile
washed ashore on the beach in the area of 4th Street. About a week
later, a massive 61-foot, 50-ton whale washed ashore in neighboring Fenwick
Island.

In early May, an
extremely rare Gervais beaked whale was spotted well into the coastal bays
behind the resort in a canal near Old Landing Rd. Crews from the National
Aquarium along with the Coast Guard, the DNR and Ocean City Public Works
attempted to rescue the rare beaked whale, which was ultimately euthanized
because it was in such bad shape. However, scientists from the Smithsonian
arrived and took the deceased animal for further study of the rare species.

Schofield said the
latest whale carcass to wash up on the beach last week, along with the healthy
humpback spotted in June and the two deceased whales that washed up in the
spring are likely anomalies and not indicative of something more concerning.

“We’re not seeing
anything like a disturbing trend,” she said. “We typically see humpback
strandings in the late spring because they pass by the mid-Atlantic from their
feeding grounds to the calving grounds. It’s hard to predict, obviously. We
might see three in two months and not see another one for two years.”

 

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