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Sick whale euthanized near Gilgo Beach

A sick pygmy sperm whale that ended up on shores east of Gilgo Beach Tuesday was euthanized on the beach Tuesday, far from the waters where the animal is usually found, area marine life experts said.

A bystander spotted the sick whale on the beach shortly before 5 p.m., said Kim Durham, a spokeswoman for the Riverhead Foundation, which responded to the call with biologists and met police on the beach. The organization helps preserve and protect Long Island's marine environment.

But, Durham said, the animal was too sick to be saved, so it was euthanized.

The team of four from the Riverhead Foundation and officers used a special stretcher to lift the animal's carcass onto a pickup truck so it could be analyzed Wednesday, Durham said.

"We rarely encounter this species, and when we do, it often is a very compromised animal," she said, adding that the whale was emaciated, weighing between 400 and 500 pounds.

It was 11 feet long, Durham said, adding that whales of species and that length can weigh up to 800 pounds.

Durham said biologists will perform a necropsy Wednesday to try to determine the cause of death.

The pygmy sperm whale is normally found in the southeastern waters of the United States, Durham said. It feeds on squid.

"It's unusual to have this species on our shore," she said. "And the condition of the animal indicated it had likely been sick for a while because it was so skinny."

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