Dead pilot whale found on Searsport beach

By Dan West | Apr 11, 2014
Photo by: Dan West Officer Mike Larrivee and members of the Searsport Fire Department help Allied Whale lift a dead pilot whale into a pick up truck.

Searsport — A dead pilot whale was removed from a beach in Searsport early Friday morning, April 11, and taken by Allied Whale for study.

The young whale was found at the end of Lobster Lane in Searsport, between Searsport Terrace and Moose Point just before 3 p.m. April 10. The next morning Officer Mike Larrivee and Harbormaster Wayne Hamilton towed the animal from the beach to the town wharf.

Allied Whale Research Associate Tom Fernald met the whale at the public landing, and with the help of College of the Atlantic graduate Alex Borowicz and members of the Searsport fire department lifted the animal into the back of a pickup truck. Fernald estimated the whale, which he determined was female, weighed between 400 and 500 pounds and was around 10 feet long.

Fernald said the whale will be transported to a colleague's home where College of the Atlantic marine biology students will help perform a necropsy on the animal. Fernald said he could not determine the cause of death at the scene, but the body did not show damage typical to being struck by a boat propeller.

Pilot whales are relatively rare for this time of year, Fernald said. The small, dark-skinned whales, sometimes called "black fish," are more common during the summer months and generally stay further out to sea, Fernald said.

Fernald said Allied Whale, which covers an area from Rockland to the Canadian border, gets around six calls a year for dead or stranded whales, although it is highly variable. Borowicz said during the spring they are more often called out for seal pups that are in distress.

The marine biology students will dissect the whale, measure its organs and look for possible cause of death. Fernald said the animal's flesh will be removed and the bones will be cleaned by burying them in compost for around six months. The college will then reassemble the skeleton.

"This will be a great learning experience for the students," Larrivee said. "It is great for the college. How else are you going to learn?"

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