Dead whale found in New York harbor being examined

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) - Mammal researchers were conducting a necropsy Wednesday to determine the cause of death for a 57-foot-long whale that was found dead in New York harbor over the weekend.

Representatives from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine on the New Jersey shore were in Jersey City on Wednesday examining the finback that weighs 55 to 60 tons. The whale was found stuck on the bow of a container ship in the harbor Saturday and later towed to an Army Corps of Engineers station near Liberty State Park.

Jay Pagel, senior field technician for the stranding center, said it isn’t uncommon for whales to make their way into shipping lanes as they travel up and the down the East Coast, though they don’t usually stray into the harbor. He said the last time a whale was found in the harbor was about four or five years ago. The mammals can occasionally become lodged on the front of a container ship or other large vessel because of the way the bows are constructed.

On a windy, chilly morning, the mostly intact whale lay stretched out on its side on the dock as researchers prepared for the necropsy, which would entail dissecting the body and checking the organs, Pagel said. A deep indentation was clearly visible on its underside near the jaw, but otherwise it looked surprisingly undisturbed.

The whale was in much better shape than many the stranding center finds that may have been eaten by sharks or suffered other damage, Pagel said. That could help yield information on whether the whale was dead before it was struck by the ship or whether it was suffering from some debilitating condition that may have led to its death.

“Finding something this intact is an unusual opportunity,” he said.

Pagel said the necropsy was expected to be completed by the end of the day Wednesday.

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