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

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NEAQ Whale Watch: Humpback Bubble Cloud Feeding off Boston?

This weekend we got to see a pod of humpback whales bubble cloud feeding–that is cooperatively blowing bubbles to herd tiny fish into a concentration near the surface, then gobbling them up. The New England Aquarium’s‘s tour brought us close enough to the whales that we could actually see, understand and anticipate what they were doing.

You first know you’re going to see this specialized hunting technique when a huge patch of light turquoise water appears. Bubbles surface, then enormous black snouts covered with bumps (technically, tubercules or hair follicles). There’s lots of jostling and swirling, then fins and finally a “whale footprint” or eerily smooth patch of sea that, we learned, whalers first thought was leaked whale oil.

I found some discussion online that humpbacks only bubble net feed off Alaska, Antarctica and west of South America. I’m not a whale expert, so I’m not sure if this is any different from what we all saw. But we clearly got to see it a few times. We had at least three whales at it, Echo, a mother; her calf, who stuck close to her; and another whale named Zooney.

The New England Aquarium has the system down to bring whales to the masses: a huge, fast catamaran whisks you an hour off-shore into Stellwagen Bank, a shallow feeding ground and sanctuary. Right from the center of Boston you can spend three hours and $40 and see one of the most active whale-watching sights in the world. Whale-watching tours

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