20 June 2016

Sowerby's beaked whale carcass being studied by New Brunswick Museum.

Sowerby's beaked whale washed up near Campbellton now at NB Museum in Saint John.

CBC News

A 16-foot dead whale found near Campbellton has arrived at the New Brunswick Museum to be cleaned and stored as part of its collection.

This is the first time a mature male Sowerby's beaked whale has been found in New Brunswick waters.

"Beaked whales are generally deep water whales, they generally don't come close to shore," said Don McAlpine, research curator at the New Brunswick Museum.

"There is very little known about their basic biology. It's not a whale we see very often," he said.

The whale washed up on the shore on Wednesday and was believed to have been dead for a few days.

"It wasn't the freshest whale we have worked on," said McAlpine.

He said the only explanation for the presence of the whale in shallow waters could be that it was disoriented.

"Sometimes, when they come close to shallower water, we think that perhaps they became confused by very shallow bottom topography. They navigate by echolocation so, once it got into the gulf, it may have become really confused," said McAlpine.

The whale was taken to the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative at the University of Prince Edward Island, where a necropsy was conducted.

McAlpine said the whale seemed to be in pretty good condition and the necropsy could not determine a cause of death.

However, the stomach contents, which included tapeworms and roundworms, will be studied in more detail to get some answers.

The bones are being cleaned at the museum by first removing the tissue using knives and then placing them in bug-rooms to let insects clean off the remnants.

Very little is known about the Sowerby's beaked whale because of the deep water habitat it prefers, which means there are no population estimates for the mammal.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has ranked the Sowerby's beaked whale's status as indeterminate.

The only information about the whales' biology has been retrieved from carcasses that have washed ashore.

It will take a couple of months to clean the skeletal remains of the body of the whale.