Researchers will work to determine species, cause of death.
April 19th, 2017 (Chris Lindahl). EASTHAM — Scientists will need to take a look inside a whale carcass recovered from Sunken Meadow Beach on Tuesday to learn more about its identity.
The carcass was reported to Eastham police Monday afternoon and was recovered by an International Fund for Animal Welfare staff member the next day. Because of the extensive decay of the animal, the organization was unable to determine immediately what kind of whale it was or its age, according to IFAW spokeswoman Melanie Mahoney.
“They’re thinking it’s a smaller, young whale,” she said. “It’s not a right whale or humpback.”
For the next several weeks, researchers at IFAW, a worldwide animal advocacy organization based in Yarmouth Port, will work to clean the flesh off the animal’s bones and reassemble its skeleton in the hopes of determining its species, age and cause of death, Mahoney said.
Sunken Meadow Beach faces Cape Cod Bay, a rich plankton feeding ground for whales. Last week researchers counted a record 217 North Atlantic right whales in the area, a sizable portion of the world’s total population of 524. They also have spotted dozens of fin, humpback and sei whales and even a bowhead whale, an Arctic species that rarely travels this far south, according to Charles “Stormy” Mayo of the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.
Although the prevalence of right whales in the bay is encouraging, the overall population of the endangered species continues to decline, in part because of entanglements and ship strikes, according to Philip Hamilton, research scientist at New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.
Last week a female yearling right whale was found dead in the bay. Preliminary results of a necropsy conducted by NOAA Fisheries showed signs of blunt trauma in the young whale.
Researchers say boaters should keep a close watch for whales feeding just below the surface, travel slowly and maintain the required distance of at least 500 feet.