Dead sperm whale found off Schoodic Point, brought to COA for study

The crew from College of the Atlantic's MV Osprey secure the dead sperm whale discovered by local fishermen off Schoodic Point on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. The whale was towed to an offshore dock near the college for study.
Courtesy of Rosemarie Seton, Allied Whale
The crew from College of the Atlantic's MV Osprey secure the dead sperm whale discovered by local fishermen off Schoodic Point on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. The whale was towed to an offshore dock near the college for study.
Posted Aug. 15, 2012, at 8:17 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The second dead whale in as many months washed up near the coast of Hancock County and has been towed to College of the Atlantic. Local fishermen discovered the deceased sperm whale near Schoodic Point on Tuesday.

The whale is secured to an offshore dock near the Bar Harbor college, and the go-to team at Allied Whale has been called in to perform a necropsy and determine what killed the marine behemoth.

According to a news release from the college, the animal is believed to be between 20 and 30 years old, a youthful age for sperm whales. The creature is 40-45 feet long and could weigh as much as 50 tons.

Sperm whales are not normally seen near the shoreline, as they are deep divers and generally prefer offshore water. Scientists at Allied Whale believe the cetacean has been dead about two weeks.

Toby Stephenson is the COA boat captain that towed the whale about 9 miles to the offshore dock at the college. He said the prevalence of squid near the coast could have drawn the whale closer to land than usual.

“The squid are running right now, and running pretty fierce,” he said. “You can catch them pretty much anywhere at this point, and the whales are following them.”

Stephenson said that two strandings in two months may seem like a lot, but it’s pretty normal for the summer months. Allied Whale plans on it, though they are never sure what kind of animals might wash up during any given summer.

A necropsy is scheduled for this weekend, and scientists with Allied Whale hope to be able to determine a cause of death. Stephenson noted the presence of tooth scarring around the animal’s head, but said it’s normal for male sperm whales to engage each other in “intraspecies combat.”

“The bigger ones always have a ton of scarring around their heads,” he said.

Last month, a juvenile humpback whale washed up dead in the water near Little Cranberry Island. A necropsy was performed, but Stephenson said the whale was too badly decayed to identify a cause of death.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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