Beachgoers reported seeing a whale in shallow water when the young female washed up along Emerald Isle. Biologists with the North Carolina Marine Mammal Stranding Network responded and confirmed the whale’s death. Then, they quickly mobilized to conduct a necropsy (animal autopsy) to determine why she stranded and died.
Throughout the examination all appeared normal, until the team got into the animal’s stomach. Biologists discovered milk, indicating the young calf was still nursing. Further examination of the stomach revealed a crumpled mylar balloon, which had obstructed the whale’s ability to properly digest food, leading to starvation.
Gervais’ beaked whales are deep-diving animals and there is little known about the abundance of the species. They are found worldwide and most commonly off the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
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An operation like this one requires many trained responders and experts. Marine mammal scientists, veterinarians, students and staff participated in this effort from:
- North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
- North Carolina State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology
- North Carolina Aquarium
- University of North Carolina Wilmington
- Duke University Marine Laboratory
- University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences
- North Carolina Maritime Museum
- Bonehenge Whale Center
- Emerald Isle Public Works
- Emerald Isle Police Department