Large whale beaches itself on NC shore

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Biologists are responding as scene draws hundreds of onlookers.

By Tim Buckland and Makenzie HollandGatehouse Media North Carolina

OAK ISLAND — Prospects are not good for a sperm whale that beached itself near Oak Island Thursday morning, a University of North Carolina Wilmington marine biologist said.

“Sperm whales are not supposed to be here, so its prospects are not good” for survival, said UNCW marine biologist Bill McLelland. “They’re supposed to be 100 miles off shore.”

According to McLelland, the sperm whale is young and weighs between 25,000 and 30,000 pounds. The whale is emaciated, not a healthy whale and “not doing well,” McLelland said.

According to the biologist, the whale’s skin has been cut and it has lost significant amounts of blood.

McLelland said the animal’s size and the distance from where it should be means “we don’t have the ability to just pick it up and move it. It’s a tough situation.”

The whale beached itself in the surf just north of the Oak Island Pier Thursday morning.

John Hall of the N.C. Marine Patrol, said the beached whale was reported about 9:30 a.m. Thursday. He said marine biologists from the University of North Carolina Wilmington were “on their way” at 11:30 a.m.

He said officials aren’t sure yet what kind of whale the animal is.

“We think it’s a sperm whale, but we’re not completely sure,” Hall said.

The animal, as of noon Thursday, infrequently tried to roll over or thrash its tail.

The event drew hundreds of onlookers snapping photos and taking video of the stranded animal.

Patty White of St. James said she was buying beach towels in town when she heard about the beaches whale.

“We decided to drive over. It’s very sad to see it,” she said. “We’re hoping it can get itself out of here.”

Dave Germain of Oak Island said Thursday’s whale is not the first he’s seen either swim near the shore or get stuck.

“It’s always interesting,” he said. “It’s an amazing animal.”

Tim Buckland and Makenzie Holland are reporters for the Wilmington (N.C.) StarNews.

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