According to experts from the Seacoast Science Center, a mysterious whale has died after an unusual stranding in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and it may have been infected with bird flu.
The scientists identified the four-meter-long animal as a juvenile female Sowerby’s beaked whale, which is one of the deepest diving animals. Sowerby’s beaked whales rarely strand, as they spend most of their time off of the continental shelf of the North Atlantic; you would never expect to see these things near shore, let alone in a few feet of water.
The whale was alive when rescuers arrived on the scene, but died a few hours later. When the tide began to recede, the team decided not to move the whale back into the water due to concerns that it would cause the whale additional harm and distress.
It turned out that the whale had a viral infection that caused its brain to become inflamed, which explains why it might have been disoriented and strayed into shallow waters. The researchers are still determining which virus caused the infection, but bird flu is a top consideration.
Only a very small number of cetaceans have been diagnosed with bird flu, so it will be a big deal if it turns out to be true, the scientists say.