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Humpback Whale Is Found Dead In Long Island Sound

Experts Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., examine a humpback whale that was found dead in Long Island Sound over the weekend. Photo Credit: Riverhead Foundation
Experts examine a humpback whale that was found dead in Long Island Sound over the weekend. Photo Credit: Riverhead Foundation

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — A dead whale found in the waters of Long Island Sound over the weekend is mostly likely one that delighted boaters from Connecticut over the summer, according to experts. 

Biologists, interns and volunteers from The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation in Riverhead, N.Y., performed a necropsy on the dead humpback whale Sunday. It washed up Saturday in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., which is located directly across the Sound from Darien.

"We were able to document the animal and work to find a possible cause of death," the foundation said on Facebook. The Connecticut Post reported that signs of blunt trauma were found on the right side of the 28-foot female humpback whale.

Dave Sigworth, from the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, said the dead whale is mostly like one of the humpbacks spotted this summer near the Connecticut shore by boaters. 

"There were only as many as three whales. All who have seen the whales have estimated their sizes as roughly that of the dead whale," Sigworth said, which suggests that the whales are whales and not of fully mature size."It seems likely" it was one of the whales spotted off the coast of Norwalk, Stamford and other towns.

"It's pretty sad," Sigworth said. "It's about the time of year that whales begin their southern migration, so 'our' Sound whales should be leaving soon."

Maritime experts feared this outcome, he said, which "is why we tried to make everyone aware, boaters in particular, that the whales are here and why we made available the guidelines about keeping a safe distance" from marine life. 

Blunt force trauma suggests a boat strike, Sigworth said. Such boat strikes are a frequent cause of humpback mortality, he said, but usually involve larger boats. 

One of the boaters who spotted the whales this summer was Daniel Lent of Easton. He encountered a rare scene for the relatively shallow waters: two humpback whales off the coast of Stamford. Lent said the whales were about the same length as his 27-foot boat.

“I know for certain that there was more than one whale because the breaching one started to scare me and breached behind the boat while the other whale was in front,” he told the Maritime Aquarium in an email.

The humpback whales he spotted were about half their adult size, the aquarium said. Read more about Lent's encounter here on the Daily Voice.

Guidelines for whale watching and maintaining a safe boating distance can be found online here.

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