Whale stranded off of Fripp Island

147875 articles in the archive and more added every day

Whale stranded off of Fripp Island

By IAN LESLIE<br>Gazette staff writer
Published Saturday, April 5, 2003 in The Island Packet  |  480 Words  |  /BeaufortGazette/local_news

A 16-foot male pilot whale was found on the beach along the north end of Fripp Island early Friday morning.'
The whale was fairly decomposed and likely died before washing up on shore, biologists from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the National Ocean Service said.'
"We know that it didn't strand alive and it was probably dead, floating at sea for a short period of time," National Ocean Service Biologist Wayne McFee said.'
Area residents first reported spotting the whale at about 6:30 a.m., and biologists arrived from Charleston about three hours later, said Chester Kowalski, chief of security on the island.'
Pilot whales, which average about 13 feet and 1,800 pounds, are more commonly found in the cooler waters of the north Atlantic.'
Because the whale was too large to take back to a Charleston lab, its head was removed so scientists could identify whether the mammal was a short-finned or long-finned pilot whale.'
A necropsy, or animal autopsy, was not performed on the whale because of the number of people in the area, McFee said.'
"There were too many kids and people around and it was too big to bring back to the lab," he said.'
National Ocean Service Biologist Pat Fair said necropsies usually help scientists determine how a stranded marine mammal died.'
"We might be able to see if it was a disease and the state of the animal's interaction with fisheries or any entanglement with nets," she said.'
Without an autopsy, McFee said he could only guess what may have led to the whale's demise.'
"The one thing I did notice the animal was jaundiced," he said. "It may have had liver problems, and the animal was thin which points to it being diseased."'
The whale's carcass was buried on the beach.'
More than 40 marine mammals are stranded along the South Carolina coast every year, said Jennie Davis, of the Natural Resources Department. About 80 percent of the stranded animals are bottle-nosed dolphins. '
About two marine mammals, mostly dolphins, are stranded on Fripp Island every year, Mcfee said.'
Kowalski said area residents are having a hard time remembering the last time a whale turned up on the island's beach.'
"People were telling me about a whale beached on a sand bar two years ago, but that's about it," he said.'
Before Friday, five short-finned pilot whales had been found stranded along the South Carolina shore since 1991, state officials said. The last pilot whale stranded in the state washed up near Myrtle Beach a couple of years ago, Davis said.'
The pigmy sperm whale is the most common species of marine mammal found along South Carolina beaches.'