Necropsies (or animal autopsies) are performed on all marine mammals that are reported in our response region, provided they are in good condition and reasonably accessible. Seals and small whales such as porpoises and dolphins are collected and brought back to COA to be necropsied on campus. In the case of a large whale, we either travel to the animal or tow it in to an appropriate landing area.  We will then perform the necropsy right on the beach collecting Level A data and tissue samples. And if possible, we collect the skeleton as well!

On August 14, 2012, a dead sperm whale was found floating off Schoodic Point near the entrance to Frenchman Bay by U.S. Coast Guard and reported to NOAA Fisheries. They in turn relayed the information to Allied Whale. A stranding response team was deployed to retrieve the whale and tow it in to the College of the Atlantic where it was moored to a floating dock pending a necropsy.

On August 20, 2012, a team of over 50 people descended on the beach at first light to begin the external examination, take measurements and blubber thicknesses (the latter to gauge body condition). The team then began the long process of the internal examination and bone retrieval using large knives known as flensing knives and a large excavator to lift and carry the larger bones and soft tissue.  This sperm whale, a rare find in our waters, was an adult male, fifty feet in length. The cause of death could not be determined as it was in a state of advanced deposition. However, the team did find an old cable scar on its head showing that it was a victim to human impact as one point in its life. Necropsies are a critical part of stranding response.

In this case, no cause of death was determined.