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Minke whale removal turns into public spectacle after carcass washes up on Rye beach


September 17. 2018 4:12PM
A front end loader attempts to place a two-ton minke whale into a Dumpster that proved too small for the job. A larger Dumpster was eventually brought in to transport the marine mammal. (JASON SCHREIBER/CORRESPONDENT)

Video: Whale removal at Rye beach

RYE — A dead minke whale became a sad spectacle after it washed up on Jenness State Beach Monday morning and later was dropped onto the ground as crews attempted to move the mammal to a facility where a necropsy can be done to determine its cause of death.

The two-ton male juvenile whale ended up ashore after its body was spotted Sunday just off the coast between Rye and the Isles of Shoals; it was reported to be entangled in fishing gear. 

“We had a feeling it was going to wash in. It was just a matter of when and where because the winds were favorable for that,” said Ashley Stokes, manager of the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team.

The 16-foot whale remained on the beach until early Monday afternoon, when a front end loader was brought in to carry it to a dumpster in a nearby parking lot. The plan was to bring the whale to a facility where it could undergo a necropsy with help from the New England Aquarium.

As spectators gathered along the edge of the parking lot to witness the move, the operator of the loader lowered the whale into the dumpster, which proved too narrow for the minke. It fell onto the pavement as onlookers gasped. 

Stokes said the front end loader’s driver thought the head would fall in first and part of the tail would hang out. A larger dumpster had to be brought in to accommodate the whale. Stokes called it an “unfortunate” situation. 

“Logistics take a little bit of time to figure out how to move a two-ton animal,” she said.

Stokes said this is the first minke whale to wash ashore this year in New Hampshire, but others have been found dead along the Massachusetts and Maine coastline. The whale is believed to have died a couple of days ago.

“There is an unusual mortality event going on that does involve minke whales and now more than ever we are doing what we can to thoroughly investigate and do a full necropsy,” Stokes said.

Stokes said the fishing gear entanglement could be a factor. The necropsy could be done as early as Wednesday if weather cooperates.

The dead whale was a disturbing sight for beachgoers.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Kristin Morales of Portsmouth.

Morales said she recently took a boat to the Isles of Shoals and saw a couple of minke whales swimming in the distance. 

“We saw them arching through the water at different times. Everybody was just so joyful and excited to see them ... and then to see this.”

Valerie Rurack of Haverhill, Mass., joined others who spent their day at the beach and watched as crews examined the whale.

“It’s disturbing and surprising,” she said.

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