2003-01-11 / Front Page

Baby Whale Dies On Rockaway Beach

Beached Two-Year-Old Calf Too Weak To Save
By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

A baby sperm whale weighing nearly four tons that floated up on a Fort Tilden beach last Friday was shot to death on Monday when rescue workers decided that the 22-foot long mammal could not be saved.

Rescuers reluctantly attempted to euthanize the whale after hours of hard work in a driving rain in an attempt to get it off the beach.

When the drugs that were administered failed to work, however, the biologist in charge of the rescue effort asked a park policeman to dispatch the animal with a shot to its heart.

The story of the beached whale began at 8 a.m. last Friday morning, when a jogger spotted the whale and notified the U.S. Park Police.

A rescue crew from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation at the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead quickly responded.

"Something had to go wrong for this animal to wash up on the shore like this," marine biologist Kimberly Durham, who headed up the rescue effort, told reporters at the site.

She said that the young whale was still nursing and must have somehow been separated from its mother. She added that the calf would not have survived for long without its mother even if it had been returned to the ocean.

"He is still dependent upon his mother’s milk for nutrition It wasn’t feeding on its own," she added. "Every option was cruel, but we were dealt a bad hand of cards and we did the best we could."

The crew from the Riverhead Foundation dissected the 8,000-pound whale. Its blubber was buried in the sand nearby Beach 169 Street, while its skeleton will be donated by the foundation to an educational institution.

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