Endangered sei whale strands on Kitty Hawk

Endangered sei whale strands on Kitty Hawk

Members of the OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Team responded to the report of a live whale on the beach at approximately 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26. Upon arrival, the animal was identified as a Sei whale and determined to be a calf, or juvenile that would still be dependent on their mother. Because of the young age and poor body condition, permitting agencies recommended the humane euthanasia of the nearly 22-foot-long animal.

Yesterday evening, the Aquarium incorrectly reported that the whale had died. We apologize for the error. These events are dynamic and larger species may require additional drugs for euthanasia. Sedatives and pain relief were administered to the whale and, although it was very quiet, an exam confirmed that it was still alive, although unaware of its surroundings. At this time a larger regional team was mobilized to bring in specialized equipment for such a large animal.

Dr. Craig Harms, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACZM, from the Department of Clinical Sciences at N.C. State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) arrived Thursday evening from Morehead City along with Vicky Thayer from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

“The response team did an excellent job with this juvenile, yet very large whale,” said Harms. “They exhausted all efforts to make the animal comfortable, while expertly knowing when to stop administering medications so that potential scavengers and the environment would be protected. Our team takes comfort in knowing that the whale was made comfortable for as long
as possible.”

The response team had to leave the beach once it was dark for the safety of staff and volunteers. The whale was moved by the high tide overnight and could not be found during a thorough search this morning. It is likely that the animal is now deceased and may wash up in the next few days along the Outer Banks.

There is valuable information that can be gained from a necropsy examination about this endangered species. Please remember, if you find a live or dead stranded marine mammal, stay back a safe distance and call your local experts. On the Outer Banks, that number is 252-455-9654.

We thank all our volunteers, staff, the Kitty Hawk Police Department, and Kitty Hawk Public Works for their assistance.

To learn more about Sei whales, click here.

Activities conducted by the OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Network, including Jennette’s Pier and the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island are permitted under a federal stranding agreement with NMFS/NOAA.