The body of a rare Blainville’s beaked whale was found near Island Beach State Park just south of Seaside Park in Berkeley Township, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said Wednesday.
It’s only the second time in more than four decades the center has come across a whale of this species, said founding Director Bob Schoelkopf.
For several days, the dead whale floated in the back bay behind Island Beach near wetlands, Schoelkopf said.
“Sunday we moved it over to Island Beach State Park,” he said. “It was in very difficult waters.”
The species isn’t listed as endangered because scientists have been unable to come up with good population estimates. The whales spend much of their time spread out in the deep ocean, Schoelkopf said.
“There is no way of counting. They don’t travel in large pods like dolphins but in groups that feed in deep water,” he said.
The air is getting colder.
The center has encountered many more endangered whales, such as humpbacks and right whales, over the years than Blainville’s beaked whales, he said.
On Tuesday, center staff took measurements and salvaged the skull to be put on display, since it is such a rare animal and has an unusual head and mouth.
“The head is the unique part about it, with teeth protruding ... and showing on the outside of the skull,” Schoelkopf said.
The 15-foot male whale weighed about 800 pounds and was already decomposing when the center’s staff responded. There is no obvious cause of death and the decomposition was too advanced to test for a cause of death, Schoelkopf said.
Blainville’s beaked whales dive to great depths in search of food, usually squid.
A Navy sonar exercise in the Bahamas killed about 15 Blainville’s beaked whales, so it’s apparent there are a lot living there, “but you never see them,” Schoelkopf said.
He said the high frequency of sonar is thought to disrupt animals’ ability to hear and to some degree their internal organs.
“If you in were in water and the Navy set off sonar around you, you would die,” said Schoelkopf.
In 1989, staff from the center responded to a dead Blainville’s beaked whale in Morganville, Monmouth County. The skull from that animal is in the center’s museum in its Brigantine facility.
The skull from the recent animal was offered to the Smithsonian, which declined, and may ultimately go to the Island Beach State Park facility, Schoelkopf said.
Staff from the center also recovered a dead dolphin Friday in Sandy Hook, Monmouth County. The cause of death is unknown, but the center will perform a necropsy.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center is a nonprofit organization and relies on donations to rescue sick and injured marine mammals and sea turtles.