January 18, 2023

By Linda Cicoira

A Humpback whale was found dead Monday, Jan. 16, on the beach at the Assateague Island National Seashore, in Berlin, Md., according to the National Park Service.

The whale is approximately 20-foot-long and is in the Maryland Oversand Vehicle Area, which is closed at the 21.8 KM mark until the situation is dealt with.

Park Service staff immediately contacted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Stranding Response Program. They are the lead agency for stranding response in Maryland. That agency also consults with the NOAA and partners with the National Aquarium and the Smithsonian. As a land manger, national seashore is responsible for carcass retrieval and ultimately, disposal.

A necropsy is planned for Tuesday by staff from the stranding program and the aquarium.  At this time, the spokesperson said, there are no obvious signs to the cause of death.

Park Service workers will use heavy equipment to move the whale to the upper part of the beach. After the necropsy is completed, it will be moved into the dunes and allowed to dry out prior to its eventual burial. All parts of the animal are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Collection of any parts by the general public is prohibited.

Visitors who come across the whale should keep a distance and keep any dogs leashed. The carcass will smell for a while, but previous experience shows that the smell will not be a problem more than 50 yards or so from the actual location.

      If you observe a marine mammal or sea turtle washed ashore, contact the stranding response program in Maryland at 800-628-9944.  In Virginia, call the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Stranding Response Program at 757-385-7575.

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