Minke whale found dead near harbor in Chatham

Sarah Sharp, IFAW veterinarian, observed the whale in the harbor.
Sarah Sharp, IFAW veterinarian, observed the whale in the harbor.Melanie Mahoney/International Fund for Animal Welfare

A minke whale is dead, despite desperate attempts by officials to steer the creature out of a harbor in Chatham, officials said.

Chatham Harbormaster Stuart Smith said a property owner along Oyster Pond River, an estuary flowing to the harbor, reported the 18-foot-long whale was dead in the river early Friday morning.

A team from the International Fund for Animal Welfare has been sent to retrieve the carcass so a necropsy can be performed to determine the cause of death, spokeswoman Melanie Mahoney said.

Smith said he was first notified around 6:30 a.m. Thursday that the whale appeared to be stuck in Stage Harbor.


The northern minke whale was initially trapped under the dock near the harbormaster’s office, Smith said, but the rising tide helped free the whale.

A team from IFAW was called to assist in leading the whale out of the harbor to the open ocean, arriving around 8 a.m., Mahoney said.

Team leader Brian Sharp initially observed the whale’s activity before trying to move it, Mahoney said.

The whale “was not making its way back out to the ocean,” according to Mahoney, and swam in tight circles in a pattern typical of when whales are enclosed in smaller bodies of water.

The IFAW team sailed out in harbormaster boats around 10:30 a.m. to try to lead the animal out of the harbor.

The team used acoustical equipment in an attempt to guide the whale. Spectators gathered on shore. The operation lasted until around 6 p.m., when the whale cleared the harbor.

Smith said the presence of the whale in Chatham was unusual. Last month, two humpback whales also died after beaching on Chatham’s South Beach and nearby Monomoy Island.

“We seem to have a rash of them at the moment,” he said.

Mahoney said there doesn’t appear to be a link between the recent whale deaths.


“At this time, they’re unrelated,” she said.

Ben Thompson can be reached at ben.thompson@globe.com.