2005-10-07 / Front Page

Washed-Up Whale Had Bad Kidneys, Parasites

Kim Durham (in red), the Riverhead Foundation’s Rescue Program Director, inspects the whale that washed up on Monday.
Kim Durham (in red), the Riverhead Foundation’s Rescue Program Director, inspects the whale that washed up on Monday. A 12-foot pilot whale that washed up in Rockaway on Monday was suffering from diseased kidneys and parasites, and had beached itself two other times on Long Island, according to the marine researcher who came to the sick sea creature’s aid.

Kim Durham, Rescue Program Director for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, performed a necropsy (animal autopsy) at the foundation’s L.I. facility just hours after the whale was removed from the Rockaway shoreline. Durham concluded that kidney disease and parasites, which caused a large stomach ulcer were “likely contributors to the whale’s death,” according to a press release from the foundation.

The whale was seen swimming off Beach 73 Street two days before it beached itself on Beach 102 Street and then again on Beach 116 Street.The whale was seen swimming off Beach 73 Street two days before it beached itself on Beach 102 Street and then again on Beach 116 Street. The whale, a male juvenile about 8-10 years old, was 12-feet in length and weighed 900 -1,100 pounds, Durham told The Wave. The whale was spotted off Rockaway’s shoreline on Friday, Sept. 30, and he beached himself for the first time Sunday at Nickerson’s Beach in Lido Beach.

Lido residents, who thought they were helping, pushed the sickly whale out to sea before authorities arrived on the scene. Durham said it would have been better for the animal if it could have been identified before any other action was taken.

Pilot whales are one of the more socially structured whale species and are very rarely encountered as single animals in the wild, according to Durham. They can be seen about 80-100 miles off of New York’s coast, where they feed on squid and mackerel. The fact that the whale was alone, coupled with his “thin body condition,” was a clear indication that he was not well.

“This was the end play for this particular animal,” Durham said of his failed attempt to beach himself on L.I. The whale came ashore again on Sunday on Monroe Boulevard in Long Beach, and was again pushed off shore. Subsequent efforts to locate him in the water were unsuccessful, until he was spotted early Monday morning on Beach 102 Street. Again he was pushed back into the ocean by good Samaritans. About 20 minutes later, he came ashore on Beach 116 Street where he later died.

Durham, who responded to Rockaway that morning, said the whale was dead before she arrived on scene, but she added that he was in such poor health that Riverhead would not have tried to rehabilitate him. She said his repeated return to the water by human hands was “frustrating” because it prolonged his suffering and put people at risk.

Pilot whales are unpredictable and violent when they are beached, Durham warned. Wave photos from the scene show the whale was able to writhe his head and tail when he first came ashore. “Their tails are all tendon and muscle and are extremely powerful.

“People don’t see a whale or a dolphin as a potential threat,” Durham explained. She also commended the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the Marine Fisheries Service and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for securing the scene and protecting the whale. She asked anyone who spots a sea animal to call the Riverhead’s 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829 or e-mail them at Sightings@RiverheadFoundation.org

Brian Magoolaghan

The whale was seen swimming off Beach 73 Street two days before it beached itself on Beach 102 Street and then again on Beach 116 Street.

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