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Doomed Baby Humpback Shot in the Hamptons

Wildlife officials decided early on that a baby humpback  beached in the Hamptons was doomed have finally shot it to death, days after it was found and started drawing sympathetic crowds. The whale created a weird whale-watching spectacle with hundreds visiting Main Beach in East Hampton for a curious, sad vigil. Everyone wanted to find some way to save the whale, but without its mother or some supersized facility, it wouldn’t work.

Euthanizing the whale didn’t go too smoothly: the New York Post denies it died.  The Huffington Post says it died overnight. Gothamist quotes subscription-required Newsday saying shots rang out. But an earlier story says they were using darts, not some kind of Old Yeller euthanasia pistol. Carissa Katz writes in The East Hampton Star that they used a highly specialized kind of dart to deliver an overdose of sedatives, first Wednesday, then again on Thursday:

The darts the system uses are designed to go through the whale’s blubber and into muscle. The whale is estimated to weigh about 10,000 pounds. The amount of the drug needed to sedate an animal that size is “enough to kill 100 people,” [David Morin, a marine mammal biologist with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration] said. 

Whale beaching is still a mystery. They’ll do a necropsy–the animal equivalent of an autopsy. The Sag Harbor Express said earlier in the week that they’ll do the necropsy on site and probably bury it there, too.It may be the whale was sick or injured. Or it could have lost its mother, whom it needs for milk. Even the wolf-killing, Sarah Palin-loving state of Alaska says humans are usually somehow to blame for humpback whale deaths–either through fishing line entanglements, boat collisions or toxins.

The Riverhead Foundation says they handled 40 cetacean (which includes dolphins, porpoises and whales) strandings in 2008.

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