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Dead whale, turtle wash ashore at Smith Point County Park


A dead 58-foot finback whale was discovered shortly before 8 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2014 on the beach near the campground area at Smith Point County Park in Shirley. (Credit: News 12 and James Carbone)

A dead 58-foot finback whale was discovered ashore Thursday morning near the campgrounds area at Smith Point County Park in Shirley.

Kim Durham, rescue program director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, said her agency received a call shortly before 8 a.m. from someone who spotted the carcass.

Durham and a team of researchers conducted a thorough external examination of the whale, which they determined to be a mature male. She estimated it weighed between 30 and 40 tons.

Durham said the whale showed signs of "advanced decomposition" and also bite marks, indicating that large sea animals, possibly a shark, had fed on the carcass post-mortem.

"Most of the skin is missing from the animal," she said.

The external examination did not yield a cause of death, Durham said, so her team will have to conduct an internal one. She said they will be returning to the site Friday to collect samples that will be brought back to the foundation's lab for testing. The results will be posted to the foundation's Facebook page.

The remainder of the carcass not harvested for testing will be buried at the beach, she said, at a location that has yet to be determined.

Fin whales are considered the second-largest species of whale, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Durham said the whales are fairly common to the region.

"We have been documenting finback whales in waters off New York all summer," she said. "So it's not surprising."

A dead leatherback sea turtle also washed ashore further west. It was resting on the beach Thursday morning when the whale was discovered, but Durham said the turtle carcass had been there since at least Tuesday, when it was reported to the foundation.

Researchers conducted an external exam on the turtle Wednesday, but Durham said they did not find evidence to determine the cause of death. She said the turtle carcass was disposed of Thursday.

She added, "There's no indication to think that the two animals are related in any way."

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