Rescue Workers Forced to Euthanize Stranded West Island Whale
FAIRHAVEN — A minke whale that was stranded on the shores of West Island had to be euthanized Tuesday afternoon.
The whale, believed to be a female juvenile and estimated to be about 15 feet in length and weighing about 2400 pounds, had been stranded at the tail end of Hoppy’s Landing for an indeterminate amount of time. Rescuers said it could have been stranded as long as 12 hours, before it was discovered at around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
It was determined by rescue workers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, or IFAW, that the whale was likely suffering from an illness and could not be returned to the open waters. The decision was made to first sedate and then euthanize the whale.
Olivia Guerra, a stranding specialist for IFAW, said it was “most likely an illness” that led to the whale becoming stranded in the cove, and that generally, a whale that is sick will come close to shore to help prevent it from drowning. She said the problem is that once whales start to come out of the water, they lose the weightlessness of the ocean and it is difficult for them to bear their own weight.
“This whale likely spent a number of hours bearing its own weight, which does major internal damage,” she said.
Guerra said that while minke whales are not endangered, there is an “Unusual Mortality Event” happening with them right now.
“Something is happening with these whales right now,” she said. “There’s been an increase in deaths the past couple of years, not just with (minke whales) but also a UME for humpback whales, right whales, and last year there was a UME for harbor seals.”
The whale will be transported via flatbed truck to a transfer station, where a necropsy will be performed to try to determine the exact cause of death.