A decomposed whale washed up Monday in Kitty Hawk, the third whale death on the Outer Banks in the past five months.
The OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Network planned to measure and examine the whale, which appeared to be a humpback, during low tide Monday evening.
An “unusual mortality event” involving humpback whales continues along the East Coast, in a trend first noted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2016.
In December, a 30-foot humpback was found washed up at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, likely the victim of entanglement in fishing line, NOAA said. In January, a dying sei whale washed up on the beach in Kitty Hawk and was given euthanasia drugs by marine mammal stranding teams, but its body washed away overnight.
Humpback whales migrate to the Caribbean in the winter, where they breed and give birth, then head back toward New England for the spring and summer to feed.
That means migrating humpbacks are swimming past the Mid-Atlantic this time of year, with many juvenile whales hanging around the area to feed rather than head south for romance.
NOAA recorded 14 whale strandings along the East Coast since December. Over the winter, there were eight whale deaths in a little over a month in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, the Associated Press reported.
Past findings by the OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a team of state and federal experts who investigate strandings, have led to seasonal management with NOAA Fisheries to reduce ship strikes with speed restrictions in known migration paths.
The reasons for marine mammal strandings vary, from disease to parasites to injuries and weather events, the network says on its website. Many times, a cause is never identified.
Kari Pugh, email@example.com