Officials landed upon a rare sight at Coney Island on Monday afternoon, finding a dead minke whale on the shore of Brighton Beach, at the end of Ocean Parkway. The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation performed a necropsy to determine the cause of death. In an email to ANIMAL, representative Rachel Bosworth wrote that “the cause of death is consistent with a ship strike.”
Riverhead was first notified of the whale at 12:20 PM on Monday by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The team of biologists assembled on the beach just after 6 PM, according to Bosworth. Here are their findings:
Preliminary results show that the whale is a mature, adult female that was in good body condition, with food still in her stomach. Due to the presence of internal bruising, propellor slices, and lacerations of a mechanical nature, the cause of death is consistent with a ship strike. The top portion of the whale’s head is missing, and it is likely that the whale was decapitated by a propellor. The state of the whale’s body leads us to believe that the death was recent – like 1-2 days old. The whale is about 20 feet in length from the eyes to the tail. Because a part of the whale is missing, the exact length is not able to be determined.
They left around 9 PM, after which Parks Department workers picked apart the carcass and disposed of it.
Minke whales are the smallest of the “great whales,” a category that includes the humpback and blue whale. According to Riverhead, they are “common in our waters,” but rarely seen washed up on New York shores.
Riverhead program director Kim Durham told DNAinfo that three dead whales have washed up in Long Island in 2015 already, which “seems like a lot.” However, “there have not been any recent cases of these whales washing up in the area,” according to Bosworth.