Update on sei whale stranded in Kitty Hawk

By on January 27, 2023

Animal not euthanized on Jan. 26, now believed deceased in ocean

(Courtesy of NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island)

A new release by the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island says that the juvenile sei whale reported to have been euthanized in Kitty Hawk on Jan. 26 was actually still alive at that point.  The new information, provided on Jan. 27, concludes that the whale was apparently washed out to sea overnight, and “it is likely that the animal is now deceased and may wash up in the next few days along the Outer Banks.”

The Aquarium acknowledged that it provided incorrect information about the condition of the whale on Jan. 26, adding that “we apologize for the error.” The Voice published the incorrect information about the status of the whale on Jan. 26.

Here is a more detailed account of the chain of events from the Jan. 27 Aquarium release.

Members of the OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Team responded to the report of a live whale on the beach at approximately 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26. Upon arrival, the animal was identified as a sei whale and determined to be a calf, or juvenile that would still be dependent on their mother. Because of the young age and poor body condition, permitting agencies recommended the humane euthanasia of the nearly 22-foot-long animal.

Yesterday evening, the Aquarium incorrectly reported that the whale had died. We apologize for the error. These events are dynamic and larger species may require additional drugs for euthanasia. Sedatives and pain relief were administered to the whale and, although it was very quiet, an exam confirmed that it was still alive, although unaware of its surroundings. At this time a larger regional team was mobilized to bring in specialized equipment for such a large animal.

Dr. Craig Harms, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACZM, from the Department of Clinical Sciences at N.C. State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) arrived Thursday evening from Morehead City along with Vicky Thayer, PhD, from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

“The response team did an excellent job with this juvenile, yet very large whale,” said Harms. “They exhausted all efforts to make the animal comfortable, while expertly knowing when to stop administering medications so that potential scavengers and the environment would be protected. Our team takes comfort in knowing that the whale was made comfortable for as long as possible.”

The response team had to leave the beach once it was dark for the safety of staff and volunteers. The whale was moved by the high tide overnight and could not be found during a thorough search this morning. There is valuable information that can be gained from a necropsy examination about this endangered species.

Please remember, if you find a live or dead stranded marine mammal, stay back a safe distance and call your local experts. On the Outer Banks, that number is 252-455-9654. We thank all our volunteers, staff, the Kitty Hawk Police Department, and Kitty Hawk Public Works for their assistance.


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  • EZobx

    The story sounds kinda fishy ( ;

    Friday, Jan 27 @ 3:58 pm
  • Travis

    We are such a weird people when it comes to killing animals. We have all these nice words “put to sleep” “euthanasia” “harvested” “taken” etc. for some creatures and then others are just butchered without consideration for their comfort or shot from helicopters and left die due to imprecise targeting (that’s kind-speak for bad aim). Don’t get me started on leg traps.

    The irony is, the chicken getting decapitated on the assembly line has a much faster and efficient death than, say, this whale that suffered for who knows how long waiting for drugs to take effect. Having had to personally dispatch (kind word for “kill”) a few critters that were suffering and beyond help, I can tell you a quick, if messy, bullet to the brain is a 100% efficient and reliable means to put them out of their misery.

    Friday, Jan 27 @ 7:26 pm