Public works employees on Monday used an excavator to remove a whale carcass from Old Orchard Beach.

The badly decomposed minke whale washed up Sunday morning about a mile south of the pier. The whale could not be removed from the beach Sunday because the equipment needed to move the heavy remains was not available.

Town officials said it took public works crews about two hours to remove the whale from the beach Monday. The town worked with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to dispose of the remains.

David Madore, a spokesman for the DEP, was not sure where the remains were taken, adding that more details should become available Tuesday.

The whale weighed about 5,500 pounds and was 25 to 30 feet long, according to town officials.

Lynda Doughty, director of Marine Mammals of Maine, a Harpswell-based organization that rescues and researches marine mammals and sea turtles, examined the carcass Sunday and identified it as an adult male minke whale, which had been fed on by sharks and birds.

Doughty said she also responded on Monday to the report of a second dead minke whale that washed ashore Sunday evening on a rocky cove in Cape Neddick. That whale had been dead for several weeks.

“It was badly decomposed and had very little outer skin left,” Doughty said.

Doughty said she took tissue samples from the adult male when it was floating in Casco Bay, and again on Sunday at Old Orchard Beach. The samples will be analyzed to try to determine the cause of death, she said.

On July 7, Marine Mammals of Maine responded to a report of a dead juvenile minke whale that washed ashore at Kittery Point. Doughty did a necropsy, but is still awaiting results. The whale’s belly was full of pogies and it had been caught up in lobster gear.

In the past week, Doughty’s organization has responded to 29 reports of stranded marine animals – almost all were whales or seals.

“It has been a very busy week,” she said.

Minke whales have been experiencing high mortality rates for the past couple of years, but no one knows why, Doughty said. They are toothless whales that eat krill or small fish using baleen plates in their jaws to strain or filter their food out of the water.

She said Sunday that the dead whale that washed ashore in Old Orchard Beach had been spotted Wednesday in Casco Bay off Eagle Island, along with a dead basking shark that was not the one that washed up last week on Higgins Beach in Scarborough.

Easterly winds and marine conditions caused the whale to wash ashore, Doughty said. She said those same conditions were probably responsible for the Higgins Beach shark landing.

On Thursday, a badly decomposed 500- to 600-pound, 15-foot basking shark washed up on Higgins Beach. That odoriferous carcass was removed by the Scarborough Public Works Department using heavy equipment and buried in a landfill.

To report a marine mammal stranding, the public should call Marine Mammals of Maine at 800-532-9551.

 

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