Baby whale dies in Rockaways, New York State
2-year-old calf beached, too weak to return to seas
7th January 2003
By ROBIN HAAS
Marine biologists from Riverhead Foundation tend to whale that hit shore at Beach 169th St. The immature calf had no chance of surviving and had to be shot in the heart.
Marine biologists autopsied a 4-ton baby whale yesterday on a Rockaway beach after reluctantly asking a park police agent to shoot it when euthanizing drugs failed to work.
The sperm whale calf was found alive on the shore at Beach 169th St. about 8 a.m. Friday by a person walking along the beach.
A rescue crew from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation at the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium on Long Island was called in and quickly determined the immature whale had no chance of surviving a return to the ocean.
But when drugs administered to euthanize the huge infant failed to work, the biologists asked a park policeman to dispatch it with a shot to the heart.
"Something had to go wrong for this animal to wash up on shore," said marine biologist Kimberly Durham, who headed up yesterday's rescue/autopsy efforts for the Riverhead Foundation, a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine mammals in New York waters.
Durham said that the 22-foot whale - less than 2 years old and still nursing - somehow got separated from his mother and would not have survived without her, ruling out the option of returning the juvenile whale to the Atlantic Ocean.
"He is still dependent upon his mother's milk for nutrition. It wasn't feeding on its own, so it wouldn't have survived on its own," she said. "Every option was cruel but we were dealt a bad hand of cards, so we did the best we can."
The crew dissected the charcoal-colored, 8,000-pound whale, a deep-diving mammal, to learn more about what might have caused it to get beached - and for the Riverhead Foundation to acquire more data on mammals and marine life.
The blubber was to be buried under the sand dunes, and the skeletal remains will be donated to a museum for educational purposes, Durham said.
Although this baby whale was the first to be stranded in 2003, last year some 87 marine mammals were recovered in New York State, Durham said.
"The best thing that people can do if they find a seal or a whale is to get us involved ASAP," said Durham. The 24-hour hotline number is (631) 369-9829.