Marine animal researchers are examining a 15-foot-long whale that became stranded and died on a beach in North Chatham on Sunday.

The long-finned pilot whale was first spotted swimming in the nearby bay, far from the animals’ usual territory, around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, said Misty Niemeyer, necropsy coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

By the time IFAW rescuers arrived in Chatham an hour later, the 2,000-pound whale had beached and died, she said.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“It’s difficult to say what exactly was the cause of death,” Niemeyer said. “But she had several signs of longer-term health problems.”

Niemeyer said there was no evidence that the recent nor’easter had injured the whale or contributed to its stranding in the bay.

“We haven’t seen any large amounts of strandings after the storms, just a few individuals,” she said.

Overall, marine mammal strandings are down significantly from last year, when nearly 200 dolphins became stranded in several mass stranding events, Niemeyer said.

On Sunday, it took 23 people to carry the dead pilot whale on a specially-designed whale stretcher and lift it into the back of a flatbed truck. The animal was transported to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where Niemeyer and others examined it.