North Carolina

Endangered whale euthanized on NC beach, plastic bag found in throat, scientists say

A young endangered sei whale, found beached near Wilmington, North Carolina, had to be euthanized, WWAY reports.

The 17-foot whale came ashore on Masonboro Island, a coastal preserve close to Carolina Beach, according to the station.

This animal was very, very thin. It wasn’t with its mom which it should have been. No food in the stomach, it was clear this animal hadn’t been eating for a while,” said Ann Pabst, a marine biology professor at UNC Wilmington and volunteer with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, according to WECT.

Pabst told the station they did a necropsy, an autopsy for an animal, on the whale and found parts of plastic bags and seaweed in its throat.

“It was just a piece of trash that the animal found in the water. It’s so important to be really careful about what we put in the water because what we put in the water can end up in the mouth of a whale. We can’t say that that was the cause of the mortality and quite frankly I don’t think it was the cause, but it certainly didn’t help the animal in its debilitated state,” Pabst told WECT.

“It wasn’t able to get food into the mouth so, we are not quite sure when that happened,” North Carolina State Stranding Coordinator William McLellan told WWAY. “It was either early on and it started the animal debilitating process or the animal could have been debilitated.”

Wildlife photographer Robbie Johnson posted a video of the whale to Facebook Sunday. “Urgent. Help needed,” he wrote. The video shows bystanders using buckets and bags to pour water over the whale.

Sei whales grow to be 60 feet long, weigh up to 100,000 pounds and live to be 70 years old, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “An average sei whale eats about 2,000 pounds of food per day,” the NOAA site states.

Marine mammal strandings increase during winter months, Mike Remige with the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources told McClatchy recently.

Last week, Remige said at least one dolphin and two whales died on the beaches in the Outer Banks.

Remige said people should never try to push a stranded whale or dolphin back into the ocean.

According to the OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Network, people should call first responders and try to “keep its skin moist and cool by splashing water over its body, if the animal is alive and appendages feel warm. Use wet towels to help keep the skin moist and prevent sunburn.”

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.