A nearly 30-foot-long dead baleen humpback whale calf washed ashore near Jones Beach State Park, parks officials said Thursday morning.
The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, a nonprofit marine life rescue organization, will make the determination of what to do with the whale’s remains, according to George Gorman, spokesman for the Long Island region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Recreation.
The whale was discovered by parks’ staff east of field 6 at Jones Beach and west of Tobay Beach near a strip of beach known as High Hill. New York State Parks Police said they got the call at 9 a.m.
“I’ve been here 11 years and this is the first baleen beached whale that I’ve seen, so it’s pretty rare,” said Annie McIntyre, director of nature center at Jones Beach. The whale is already showing signs of decomposition, which leads her to believe that the whale was already dead when it washed ashore, she said.
Onlookers quickly gathered after news of the beached whale broke, many snapping photos of the deceased mammal. “Looking at it right now it doesn’t look like a whale–it just looks like a thing,” 11-year-old Michael Korman, of Wantagh, told the Press.
His 14-year-old-brother Thomas, who is studying Marine Biology, expressed his concern for the recent slew of beachings that have occurred on Long Island so far. “It makes me nervous because this is like the third whale that has washed up so far,” he said. “It makes you think maybe something is wrong with the water.”
[popup url="http://assets.longislandpress.com/photos/gallery.php?gazpart=view&gazimage=3949"]Click here to view more photos of the whale at Jones Beach[/popup]
Other observers were in awe of the sight of the calf. “Its exciting for me to see a humpback whale up close because you wouldn’t see one regularly, but its sad to see it under these circumstances,” said Rebecca Hart, 21, of Holbrook.
The Riverhead Foundation will decide if they want to conduct a necropsy to determine the mammal’s cause of death. Parks’ staff found no apparent signs of injury.
Once a necropsy is complete, parks’ staffers will be responsible for burying the whale in the sand.
Humpback whales can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh more than 40 tons. Although still listed as endangered, humpbacks have been making a comeback.
It’s not the first time unusual wildlife has been found in the area.
A 3-foot starfish was found dead in another part of Jones Beach three weeks ago. Last July, a dead 20-foot-long basking shark washed ashore a few miles east of Jones Beach.
The Riverhead Foundation had responded last week to a report of a beached dolphin at West Gilgo Beach. That dolphin died less than a day after being brought back to the foundation’s center for rehabilitation.
The foundation was also on the scene when a baby humpback whale washed ashore in East Hampton two months ago. That whale was euthanized after several failed attempts.
Onlookers gathered for days, taking pictures of the dying mammal. Members of the Shinnecock Nation’s Thunderbird family and other tribes sang and prayed for the whale’s spirit.
Scientists said the 30-foot humpback was likely headed from breeding grounds in the Caribbean to feeding grounds off the coast of New England, a normal migratory route.
Charles Bowman, president of the Riverhead Foundation, said at the time that beached whales are found in the area every year or two. Most die at sea; a few beach themselves to keep from drowning when they’re too sick to stay afloat, Bowman said.
With Timothy Bolger and AP