A boat likely hit the humpback whale that came to rest on the shore in Long Beach, marine experts said on Saturday.
The whale, a 32-foot-long female between two and five years old, is the third humpback whose death was confirmed in New York State this year.
Humpbacks, once nearly hunted into extinction, have been dying at abnormally high rates since 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On Saturday, experts from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society conducted a three-hour necropsy - the term for an autopsy performed on an animal - on the humpback before it was buried in the sand.
“The necropsy showed signs of extensive bruising consistent with vessel strike,” the Hampton Bays-based nonprofit said in a statement. “The whale was moderately decomposed, and samples were taken to be sent to a pathologist to help determine the cause of death.”
Adult humpbacks can grow as long as 60 feet or so, weigh around 40 tons and live for half a century.
Though humpbacks returned to New York waters in the past few years as the water quality improved, NOAA has termed a spike in their deaths since January 2016 an “Unusual Mortality Event.”
Some of the 68 humpbacks that stranded from Maine to Florida between January 2016 and March 16, 2018, were struck by boats. More research must be done to learn why the others died, NOAA has said.
Nine humpbacks had stranded by March 16 of this year, according to NOAA.
People should stay at least 150 feet away from any stranded marine animals, the marine conservation society said, noting many, like the humpback, are protected species. The whales can also pose safety risks and perhaps transmit diseases, it said.