Public asked to keep an eye out for pygmy sperm whale that beached, then swam away

  • Members of the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue watch a 700-pound pygmy sperm whale that became beached in Salisbury, Mass., on Jan. 10. Courtesy—SSC Marine Mammal Rescue

  • Abrasions are visible on the whale from its attempts to work its way back into open water. Jan. 10, 2022. Courtesy—SSC Marine Mammal Rescue

  • Members of the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue responded to a 700-pound pygmy sperm whale that became beached in Salisbury, Mass., on Jan. 10. —Courtesy

  • Members of the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue responded to a 700-pound pygmy sperm whale that became beached in Salisbury, Mass., on Jan. 10. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 1/12/2022 2:00:17 PM

The Seacoast Science Center is asking the ocean-going public to keep an eye out for a pygmy sperm whale that became beached Monday.

The 9.5-foot, 700-pound whale was found Monday night in less than a foot of water at Salisbury Beach State Reservation in Salisbury, Mass., about three miles south of the New Hampshire border.

“Responders found the whale vigorously thrashing … with visible abrasions from stranding. Due to the frigid temperature and the strength of the animal's thrashing flukes (tail), it was not safe for responders to stay in the water by the animal,” the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue team reported.

Shortly after dark, at peak high tide, the whale refloated on its own effort and swam offshore.

However, scientists are worried about the whale’s health. The species is highly susceptible to cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, which could have been an underlying cause for this whale to become beached.

“The prognosis for the whale remains heavily guarded,” rescuers said.

Members of the Marine Mammal Rescue are asking people, on or off shore, to report if they see the whale: “Please maintain a wide berth (200+ feet) and call the SSC Marine Mammal Rescue hotline immediately at 603-997-9448.”

Kogia species, or pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, are an elusive, deep-water species and much remains unknown about them, the center said.  Stranded members of this species are usually not refloated by people “because they are an offshore species—there is likely an underlying condition that caused it to come near shore.”

“Humane euthanasia is a consideration for events such as these, but it was not an option due to the rising tide and the risk that the animal might wash out to sea post-euthanasia,” the center said.

The Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue responds to all reports of live  and deceased seals, whales, porpoises, and dolphins from the Maine border down to Essex, Mass.


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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