November 3, 2013

Dead sperm whale found near Hunting Island

A dying whale was found off the shores of Hunting Island Sunday, the second whale in more than a week found on the Beaufort County coast, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine biologist said.

A pygmy sperm whale was spotted in a marsh area near the coast of Hunting Island stuck on an oyster bed Sunday morning, marine biologist Jessica Conway said.

The whale was alive when it got stuck, but died naturally once the tide had fallen, Conway said. Conway said she performed a necropsy at the site and took samples from the whale for testing, but no cause of death was immediately available.

Conway said it was unknown whether the whale's death was related to the morbillivirus infections spreading through dolphin and whale populations along the East Coast.

S.C. Department of Natural Resources marine biologist Al Segar said the whale was spotted by Hunting Island park rangers Sunday morning. DNR Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas said DNR officers pulled the whale to shore near the Hunting Island fishing pier just after 2 p.m.

Segar said a pygmy sperm whale was also found beached on Hilton Head Island on Oct. 26.

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