Marine biologists euthanized a 10-foot emaciated pygmy sperm whale that washed up at Gilgo Beach after experts determined the mammal was too sick to nurse back to health Tuesday evening, officials said.
The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation loaded the dead whale into the back of a pickup truck and brought it back to their facility where they will perform a necropsy to determine what made the whale sick.
“This animal was in extremely poor shape,” Julika Wocial, a rescue program supervisor with the foundation, told the Press at the scene. “Whatever’s going on here has been going on for a while.”
Suffolk County police, Babylon town bay constables and a small crowd of onlookers helped the marine biologists hoist the whale into the back of the truck after it was euthanized shortly before 7 p.m.
Officials said beachgoers reported finding the whale in the surf after 4 p.m.
Wocial said fresh flesh wounds on its side appeared to be a sign that the whale became a target for predators in its weakened state. She said the whale appeared to be fully grown, but wasn’t immediately certain of its exact age.
“Even if we had an empty tank, nothing could have been done,” she said.
Pygmy sperm whales are a protected species that grows up to 11 feet, more than 1,000 pounds and has a lifespan of 23 years, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The incident comes after more than 220 dead or dying bottlenose dolphins have mysteriously washed up on East Coast beaches from Virginia to New York since July, far above the average, Live Science reported.
The foundation is planning to release Timone, a juvenile gray seal, into Shinnecock Bay off Dune Road at 5 p.m. Saturday and is seeking donations to release Roxanne, a Risso’s Dolphin found stuck on a sand bar off Oak Beach in June.
The public is reminded to report any sightings or strandings of marine mammals and sea turtles to the foundation’s 24-hour hotline at 631-369-9829.