Dead Pilot Whale Washes Up At Falmouth Heights
By: Michael C. Bailey
It will be several days before the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has an idea what killed a pilot whale calf that washed up this week in Falmouth.
“We’re probably going to freeze it for now and in about a week or two, necropsy it and try to see if there’s any clue as to why it may have died,” Misty Niemeyer, necropsy coordinator for IFAW’s marine mammal rescue and research team said Wednesday after removing the carcass from Falmouth Heights Beach, near the kite field on the corner of Grand Avenue.
The whale showed no clear signs of injury aside from scrapes that Ms. Niemeyer associated with the body being buffeted against the rocky-strewn beach as it washed ashore, and she did not speculate as to a cause of death.
R. Charles Martinsen III, acting director of the Falmouth Department of Natural Resources, said a passer-by first spotted the female long-finned pilot whale sometime Tuesday night while walking along the beach and called it in to the Falmouth Police Department.
The call was referred to the department of natural resources, which then contacted IFAW, which sent Ms. Niemeyer out Wednesday morning to remove the whale.
“It’s a lot bigger than we thought it was,” Ms. Niemeyer said as she prepared to remove the carcass. She estimated the animal at around 5 1/2 feet long and in the 150- to 200-pound range.
Mr. Martinsen said it is not unheard of for a dead marine mammal to wash up on Falmouth shores, but the town does not experience the type of mass strandings more common on the Lower Cape. “We don’t see them, certainly, like they do down Cape,” he said.
“This time last year we were having one of the busiest seasons we’ve ever had. This year’s numbers have been much different,” Ms. Niemeyer said. Aside from a spike in activity last week involving both live and dead marine mammals coming ashore, “we’re more on the lower side than normal for this year.”
However, she added that “every year is a completely different pattern” in terms of numbers and what kinds of mammals strand on Cape Cod beaches.
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