Entangled Humpback Whale frees itself

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

At 7:30 a.m. on October 26, 2017, a fisher reported to the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network an entangled humpback whale around 2 miles offshore of Oceanana Fishing Pier near Beaufort Inlet. NCMM Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster arrived on the scene around 9:00 a.m. The whale appeared to be immature based on the size, and was lively, breathing and diving somewhat normally, but clearly encumbered by parts of a monofilament gill net that had caused some injury to the whale. While Vicky Thayer and team from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and NCSU CMAST along with Doug Nowacek and team from Duke Marine Lab readied boats, crews, disentanglement gear and tags, Keith stayed with the entangled humpback whale and photographed the injuries and entanglement. At 10:20, after a prolonged submergence of around eight minutes, the whale resurfaced with a burst of energy and lunged speedily away – it had apparently freed itself from the entangling gear. YAY! That was one lucky humpback whale (although the whale may not agree). Keith and Doug’s teams gathered both pieces of the net for subsequent examination by NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement. The following day Vicky with a team from CMAST and Duke examined and photographed the net after stretching it out in a parking lot, and determined that the entire net had been collected – the whale was apparently gear-free! As we report this, curators of several regional humpback whale photo-identification catalogs are searching for sighting records of the individual whale. This case highlights the critical value of collaboration. Information about the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network can be found at http://www.marinemammalsnccnc.com/ and https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected/stranding/disentanglements/whale/alwdn.html.

Photos by Keith Rittmaster, NC Maritime Museum, under NOAA Fisheries permit.

entangled humpback whale

The whale’s tail (flukes) showing the entangling net and injury.

entangled humpback whale

The whale’s blowholes.

entangled humpback whale

The distinctive color patterns and scars on the flukes may be helpful in identifying this individual whale.

entangled humpback whale

The whale’s distinctive dorsal fin may be helpful in identifying this individual whale.

Bottlenose Dolphin “Holly”

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Uncategorized

It’s “Holly”, so it must be summer: Bottlenose dolphin sighting

One of our best known summer bottlenose dolphins in Beaufort is “Holly”.  We identify her by photos that show the 3 very distinct notches on her dorsal fin – a process called “photo-identification”.  She is a mom (likely a great-grandmother by now) who we first identified in Beaufort in July, 1989.  We’ve seen her nearly every summer since then, and her dorsal fin looks very much the same today (27 years later!).  We’ve seen bottlenose dolphin holly approximately 100 times between Beaufort and Cape Lookout over the years, but only between April and October.  Her sightings here peak in August.  We believe Holly spends winters in around Wrightsville Beach – we’re still trying to figure that out.  Holly is a well-known dolphin along our coast among people studying bottlenose dolphins and is featured in the Animatronic Dolphin Discovery exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  We haven’t seen Holly as much as we used to so it was a special treat to see her in the Newport River twice so far this summer.  You can see more photos of Holly and try your photo-ID skills at http://www.capelookoutstudies.org/dolphin-id-game/.

 

bottlenose dolphin holly

 

Live Stranded Minke Whale

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Mandibles of live stranded minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) reveal chronic net entanglement

On May 9, 2015, a live young entangled and stranded minke whale came ashore on the ocean beach of Duck, NC.  Responders from the Outer Banks Marine Mammal Stranding Network removed net which was embedded in flesh at the tips of the mandibles.  The whale was refloated but soon returned to the beach and died.  The cleaned mandibles show bone having grown around the entangling net demonstrating the chronic nature of the entanglement.

stranded minke whale

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