CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, Va. (delmarvanow.com) -- Staff from the Virginia Aquarium were at the site of a dead humpback whale found on the beach during the weekend at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Aquarium personnel were expected to arrive Monday during low tide, said Michael Dixon, a ranger at the refuge.
The dead whale was reported to the Virginia Aquarium around midday on Sunday, said spokesman Matthew Klepeisz.
The aquarium's Stranding Response Program was onsite Monday to conduct a necropsy on the animal, he said.
Humpback whales measure 48 feet to 62.5 feet long and weigh 40 tons, according to the National Geographic Society.
“Humpback whales are known for their magical songs, which travel for great distances through the world's oceans,” the society said on its website.
Dead whales washing up in Virginia waters is not an unusual occurrence, especially in the winter months.
Last winter, four humpback whales washed ashore in Chincoteague, Virginia Beach, in the Chesapeake Bay near the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and at Cape Charles.
Virginia Aquarium officials have said that the local whale population spends time in area shipping channels, which could led to their deaths.
According to the aquarium's website, a stranding "... can be due to natural causes or, sometimes, human interactions. Stranding events provide unique opportunities for scientists to examine animals that are difficult or nearly impossible to study in the wild."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Jan. 31 announced minke whales – as well as humpback and endangered North Atlantic right whales – are experiencing what officials call “an unusual mortality event.”
This is the first time the agency has seen three unusual mortality events of large whale species occur at the same time and in the same place, said Teri Rowles, coordinator of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program, in a January interview with The News Journal.