A male juvenile humpback whale was found washed ashore Sunday morning near 80th Street in Virginia Beach. The whale had suffered propeller wounds.
Matt Klepeisz, a spokesman for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, said the whale had been reported off the Cape Henry area on Saturday morning and came ashore either Saturday night or Sunday morning at 80th Street.
According to Alex Costidis, an aquarium stranding team coordinator, the whale, after being spotted at Cape Henry, was seen at Rudee Inlet. The stranding team stayed with it Saturday, taking samples from the water until sunset. The whale was reported ashore Sunday morning at 80th Street by a passerby.
Costidis said the black and white whale had “three large propeller wounds.” He estimated the whale was 2 to 4 years old and weighed 13,000 to 16,000 pounds. It measured more than 30 feet long.
Over the course of eight days, three dead whales have been examined for propeller wounds by the stranding team.
“Three in one week is certainly something to take note of,” said Costidis.
Dozens of people walked down to get a look at the whale.
Mike Kerstetter and his wife, Sandy, of Virginia Beach, had come to sit on the beach at 80th Street with friends from Richmond. They opened their beach chairs and sat down to watch the machines move the dead whale away from the tide. At one point, the tow line snapped and had to be replaced.
“I guess we came for more than we bargained for,” Kerstetter said.
As word spread across social media, children arrived with their parents to see the sea creature. A father carried his toddler son on his shoulders. “Is it real?” asked the boy.
The stranding team will perform a necropsy, an autopsy for dead animals, on the beach this morning, and the whale will be cut up and buried near the dunes, Costidis said. The examination will determine if the whale was struck by a vessel while it was alive, he said.
Humpback whales prevail in the water off the Virginia Beach coast this time of year. They follow menhaden – bait fish that swim in schools – into the mouths of rivers and bays, said Kristy Phillips, manager of Virginia Aquarium’s necropsy team.
By Sunday afternoon, the area around the whale was marked off to keep people away from the dead animal.
“They can carry diseases,” Phillips said. “We don’t want people touching them.”
This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.