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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Sperm whale stranded at Grand Isle third found on Louisiana coast in the last year

Sperm whale stranded at Grand Isle third found on Louisiana coast in the last year

A female sperm whale found dead on a sandbar just off of Grand Isle Beach on Aug. 26 was the third sperm whale found stranded along the coast of Louisiana within the past year and the fifth stranding of this endangered species in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in the Gulf of Mexico.

This was either an older juvenile or a young adult, said LDWF biologist Mandy Tumlin, the Louisiana Marine Mammal Stranding and Rescue Program Coordinator.

“Sperm whales found in the Gulf of Mexico are generally smaller than those found in other locations,’’ Tumlin said. “This animal was a female and they tend to be a lot smaller than males in this species. Sperm whales only have teeth on the lower jaw, those teeth have been collected and can be used in determining the age of the animal.’’

Staff from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), City of Grand Isle and Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network responded to the stranding. They were able to get the animal onto the beach and to perform a necropsy on the whale.

The necropsy allows biologists to collect internal samples from organs and tissues that are analyzed by a lab in an effort to determine the cause of death.

After the necropsy was complete, the City of Grand Isle buried the carcass on the beach further away from camps and residences.

“It is important to note that sometimes we may not be able to identify an exact cause of death,’’ Tumlin said. “However, each and every stranding is important for obtaining valuable information about each of these species, especially in this case of an endangered species such as the sperm whale.’’

LDWF encourages the public to report any marine mammal strandings to the NOAA Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline at 1-877-433-8299.

To report marine mammal violations, such as people feeding, attempting to feed, or harassing marine mammals in the wild, contact the national NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Information may be left anonymously.

Sperm whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to harass or interact with marine mammals whether they are dead or alive.