Top Stories 2022: Minke whale dies after stranding in Southold’s Goose Creek

A paddleboarder out on an unseasonably warm fall day made an unsettling discovery in Goose Creek last month.

A 20-foot Minke whale was discovered stranded in the creek off of Waterview Drive around 3 p.m. on Nov. 10. Southold police, Bay Constables, Department of Environmental Conservation officers and a team from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society responded to the scene. The whale was sedated to reduce its suffering but died overnight and was removed from the creek by town highway crews, who moved it to the landfill for a necropsy.

According to results from an initial examination, the whale may have had lesions and inflammation in its brain possibly caused by an infectious disease.

The AMSEAS organization also reported that the 4,360-pound animal was thin and only had a small amount of digested food in its stomach at the time of stranding.

The examination was part of an ongoing unusual mortality event for minke whales in the region, which is defined as “a stranding that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response,” according the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the UME after tracking more than 100 minke whale mortalities along the Atlantic coast from Maine to South Carolina since 2017.

According to NOAA, full or partial necropsy examinations were conducted on more than 60% of the whales and have shown some evidence of human interactions and infectious diseases. “These findings are not consistent across all of the whales examined, so more research is needed,” the agency said.

The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was alerted to the whale through the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829. Any residents who find a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle are urged to call the hotline.