Beached Humpback Whale Was Doomed from the Start

Experts say the baby humpback was dying when it washed ashore

By Greg Cergol
|  Thursday, Apr 8, 2010  |  Updated 7:33 AM EDT
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Rescuers fear he won't survive.

Rescuers fear he won't survive.

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A young humpback whale that became stranded on East Hampton's Main Beach was already dying when it came to shore and cannot be rehabilitated, an expert said.

The whale, about 25 feet long, was discovered Tuesday morning.  "It is dying," Chuck Bowman from the Riverhead Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to rescuing marine animals, told NBC New York yesterday.

The prognosis for the baby whale was worse today.

"The actions of its body would indicate it's in really tough shape,"  said Bowman.  "It's not a candidate to save. It's a very young animal. It couldn't survive on its own even if it was healthy. It's supposed to be with its mother."

Rescuers were considering whether it could be safely sedated and euthanized.

"You can't put people in danger," said Bowman, adding that if a whale has a muscle spasm and thrashes, it could seriously injure someone.

"People believe you can just shoot it with a dart. But it's a whale: It takes a lot of effort and special equipment and time," said Bowman. "We would need to have people right on top of it."

Most whales die at sea. A few beach themselves to keep from drowning when they're too sick to stay afloat, said Bowman.

"It really is heartbreaking for us, especially because it's such a young animal," said Bowman. "We rescue mammals, sea turtles. We're very good at it, but you can't win them all."

Beached whales are found in the area every year or two. Beached dolphins are more common, and have a "good success rate" because they can be taken to a rehabilitation tank, he said.

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