Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Right Whale Retrieved Probe of Death to Start Today

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Right Whale Retrieved Probe of Death to Start Today

Article excerpt

A crowd of onlookers gathered at a MacIntosh County crab dock to

watch the Georgia Department of Natural Resources tow a dead

right whale yesterday. Researchers will try to determine what

killed the endangered mammal.

"It looks like an airplane," a child said of the whale floating

by on its back, its flukes sticking out to the side.

"They call it a right whale because when they're dead, they

float," Michael Moore, a veterinarian and toxicologist from

Woodshole Oceanographic Institution in Woodshole, Mass., told

several children. "Most other whales sink. "

"Oh goodness," said 10-year-old Stephanie Moran, clapping a hand

over her nose and mouth. "It stinks."

The whale had already begun to decay. Huge blisters were beneath

its jet-black skin. But most of the skin remained intact, a sign

that it had been dead only fours days or so, said Moore, who

looked on as the boat towed the whale along the Barbour River at

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

The boat stopped at a nearby refuge dock and the whale drifted

to a stop in the wildlife refuge about 5 p.m., and DNR workers

began the delicate task of pulling the huge mammal onto dry land

with a bulldozer and other construction equipment.

"That's point three percent of the population," Moore said,

pointing out that there are only a few hundred left. "This is a

sad day for the right whale tribe."

There are an estimated 350 of the whales left from what was

once a population of 10,000. They range as far north as Nova

Scotia but they swim south in the winter to calving grounds in a

1,000-square-mile area that runs from just north of Brunswick to

a point just south of St. Augustine.

Sailors in a private vessel reported to the Coast Guard that

they had spotted the young male right whale floating on its back

Tuesday about 10 miles east of Blackbeard Island, a wilderness

area separated from northeastern Sapelo Island by tidal streams. …

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