A pilot whale carcass that washed up Tuesday near Long Beach in Rockport has been tossed a hundred yards further down the shore and is now Gloucester’s responsibility to dispose of, said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium.
City officials in Gloucester must decide if they want to remove the rotting whale and dispose of it or hope that it washes out to sea, LaCasse said.
A biologist from the Whale Center of New England collected basic data on the dead animal, and initial measurements taken Tuesday estimated the whale carcass was about 15 feet long, LaCasse said, but it might have shrunk due to decomposition.
Experts will not be able to determine the whale’s cause of death, but typically, most that wash ashore die of natural causes, he said.
Pilot whales are small-toothed whales, more closely related to dolphins than to baleen whales, which include finback, minke, and humpback whales, he said. Instead of teeth, baleen whales have a thick fibrous material that acts as a filter to remove food from water.
“Pilot whales always swim in social groups of 10 to 25 or more and are common to the Gulf of Maine,” LaCasse said. The gulf extends from the tip of Cape Cod to Nova Scotia.
Elderly pilot whales occasionally pull into small coves from Crane Beach to Cape Ann, and swim in very tight circles before they die, he said.
“They sometimes separate themselves from the pod when they can’t keep up,” LaCasse said.
A dead finback whale washed ashore in Rockport in November. The whale carcass was first spotted in Boston Harbor in the beginning of October and went on a posthumous tour of the North Shore before coming to a rest in Rockport.
Volunteers sliced the 55-foot whale into pieces and buried the flesh under the parking lot of Cape Hedge Beach.
Removing the dead pilot whale from the shore in Gloucester will be a much easier feat, LaCasse said.
An adult pilot whale can weigh one to two tons while an adult finback can weigh 50 to 70 tons, LaCasse said.