BARNEGAT LIGHT – After a dead humpback whale was found washed up onto the Jersey shore around Christmas, experts still have yet to determine the cause of death.
The deceased humpback whale was first discovered on December 24 on the surf in Loveladies but was later found washed up in Barnegat Light on December 25 after the tide had pulled the carcass back into the water.
Team members from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center arrived to the scene to collect samples and measurements of the whale. According to the team members, they could only perform a partial necropsy due to the fact that the carcass was already heavily decomposed and was still mostly frozen.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center wrote an update on the incident on their Facebook page on December 29. They stated how the male humpback whale was 32 feet in length and estimated to be approximately two to three years old.
Teams members found marks along part of the body, which they determined to be from the waves pulling the carcass across the submerged portion of the jetty.
“Examination of the stomach contents did not reveal the presence of any recently-eaten food, or fish bones from prior feeding activity. A definitive cause of death could not be determined,” the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said on Facebook.
The Center did note how they found an interesting healed scar on the whale’s tale fluke. They concluded that this scar was imprinted teeth from a young orca, which likely resulted from a failed attack on the whale. They continued to state how humpback whales migrate north in the spring from the Caribbean, so the altercation most likely happened during the whale’s migration travels.
“We have seen healed orca teeth rake marks during necropsies of other humpback whales in the past, but this is the most distinct example we have documented to date,” the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said. “While it always saddens us to see a deceased whale, there is always something to be learned about the fascinating lives of these animals during a necropsy.”