Researchers are hoping to find out what killed a dead minke whale that was found floating off Scarborough, Maine, Saturday.
The adult-sized male whale is 20 feet long and weighs 4,000 pounds, according to a Facebook post from Marine Mammals of Maine.
The whale was bloated and had already started to decay by the time it was first spotted floating north of Stratton Island by multiple fishermen and boaters Saturday. Lynda Doughty, executive director for Marine Mammals of Maine, said in an interview with the Globe that the whale had been dead for two or three days at that point.
Researchers from Marine Mammals of Maine found the whale stranded on a small island off Scarborough Sunday.
There were no obvious signs of what killed the whale, Doughty said, so researchers collected samples of its skin, blubber, and muscle that could be used to help determine the cause.
The whale was removed from the island Tuesday and brought to a necropsy site, where it was examined Wednesday, Doughty said.
“Unfortunately, some of the samples are pretty decomposed. That’s bound to happen when the gasses inside the whale build up and the air and water around it start to heat up,” Doughty said.
Researchers were unable to determine the cause of death due to the state of the carcass, which will be composted. Samples of the whale will be sent to a lab for further examination, but it could be months before researchers get any results, Doughty said.
“Something could come back, but it’s harder when the samples are on the more decomposed side,” she said.
Minkes tend to feed close to Maine’s shores from July through September. About two or three dead minke whales wash up on Maine’s coast around this time each year, Doughty said.
This is the first dead minke Doughty’s team has recovered in 2020.
“Reporting these whales as soon as you see them helps us launch a rescue or recovery effort and further investigate how they died,” Doughty said.
Anyone who sees a stranded marine mammal should call Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline: (800) 532-9551.