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Dead Whale at Coney Island Likely Killed by Ship Strike

Jun 09, 2015 11:10 AM EDT
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A dead minke whale washed up on a Coney Island beach Monday in New York, and according to reports it's likely that is was killed by an unfortunate ship strike.

The 20-foot adult female was found around 1:30pm on the sand near the boardwalk at Ocean Parkway, authorities said. Before the whale was removed, a section of the beach was shut down for several hours while experts from the State Department of Environmental Conservation Police and the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation examined the whale, according to NBC New York.

Biologists from the foundation led by Kim Durham performed a necropsy on the animal, whose body was found battered and partly decapitated.

Although the minke whale was determined to be in good health, with food still in her stomach, it appeared that the large mammal was struck by a boat's propeller and died from its injuries before washing ashore. The accident likely happened within the last two days, Durham said.

"Due to the presence of internal bruising, propeller slices, and lacerations of a mechanical nature, the cause of death is consistent with a ship strike," a spokesperson for the Riverhead Foundation told PIX11.

It's unclear its exact age, since that number is normally determined by measuring a whale's ear bones (and the top half of its head is missing). Nonetheless, Durham took skin, tissue and muscle samples as well as the mammal's reproductive organs and stomach to bring back to the Riverhead Foundation's lab in Suffolk County for further testing and to learn more about this whale.

Minke whales are not uncommon in the waters off New York City, but it's rare for one to wash up on Coney Island, Durham said. Some whales have washed ashore before in Rockaway, including one on the bay side of Breezy Point in 2012.

Astonishingly, this is the third dead whale to wash up along the coast of Long Island in just the last six months, which "seems like a lot," Durham told DNAinfo. That's the same number of dead whales reported in all of 2014.

Experts have worried about more whales getting hit by ships along the East Coast as their food supply drives them closer to shore.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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