A growing number of dead whales are washing up on beaches on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Some appear to have been hit by ships, but others have died of still unknown causes.
The latest incidents involve four dead whales found on beaches in the Outer Banks in just two weeks earlier this month, part of a rising death toll over the past two years. One humpback whale was found on a beach in Corolla, which is on the Outer Banks between Kitty Hawk and Virginia Beach. Another, also a humpback, was found the same day not far away in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A third humpback washed up a week before near Oregon Inlet, and a dwarf sperm whale was found near Nags Head two weeks before.
In most years, only two or three dead whales wash ashore in the area. To have so many bunched together so early in the year is a sign of a bad trend, researchers say.
The Virginian-Pilot says that researchers from the Outer Banks Marine Mammal Stranding Network dissected the 33-foot whale in Corolla, and found extensive hemorrhaging near the back of its head, the sign of a ship strike.
In the past three years, 84 humpback whales have died along the Eastern Seaboard. NOAA says the increasing number of deaths represents an “unusual mortality event.” In 2017, 11 whales died in North Carolina, 14 in Virginia, and 17 in New York. Half the deaths were due to ship strikes or entanglement in nets. Read more: