Wildlife authorities in North Carolina had to deal with a sad situation this week. A dead humpback whale washed ashore at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The News & Observer reported that the humpback whale was first discovered in the surf about two miles from an off-road vehicle ramp on Hatteras Island. The whale was a huge creature, measuring about 30 feet long.
Officials will conduct a necropsy to see how and when the humpback whale died.
“Whales of this size take a long time to naturally decompose and/or wash back out to sea,” said Park spokesman Michael Barber. “So it’ll likely need to be buried in a nearby area of the beach.”
Humpback whales are an endangered species. The National Marine Fisheries Service with NOAA has declared an “unusual mortality event” involving humpback whales along the Atlantic Coast. Since 2016, there have been 168 deaths. The most deaths (35) have occurred along the shores of Massachusetts. Virginia is second at 26, while North Carolina has had 22.
The News & Observer reported that 14 humpbacks have stranded at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the past 10 years.
There Are Two Humpback Whale Populations in North Atlantic
A humpback whale can live up to 90 years and grow to about 60 feet. The most common cause of death for these majestic creatures include getting entangled in fishing lines or being hit by a boat. The whales can be found in the waters off of Alaska, New England/Mid-Atlantic, Pacific Islands, Southeast and West Coast regions.
There are two humpback whale populations in the Northern Atlantic. This time of year, they’re likely on their way to the waters off the West Indies and Cape Verde. That’s where they mate and give birth.
NOAA noted that some humpback populations swim 5,000 miles from where they breed in the tropics to where they feed in colder waters. It takes about four weeks for them to get that far.
Meanwhile, a humpback whale washed ashore Saturday on the shores of New Jersey. It’s similar in size to the one discovered in North Carolina.
Social media users also are cheering for a humpback whale named Moon. She suffered a severe injury when she was hit by a boat in September, while feeding off the shores of British Columbia. Still, Moon made the migration to Maui. Researchers spotted her, Dec. 1. But they don’t think she can make it back to B.C. this spring. If she dies, it’ll be the fifth for the area’s population since October.