CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- The carcass of what appears to be a heavily decomposed humpback whale washed ashore over the weekend at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, officials said.
"We are planning to get a team out there this week for a necropsy, but, candidly, I don’t know how much they will be able to find given the advanced state of decomposition," said Matthew Klepeisz, public relations manager at the Virginia Aquarium.
It is the fourth humpback whale to wash ashore in Virginia in the past month.
“While we cannot say definitively that there are more whales in the area compared to past years, that seems to be the consensus," said Alexander Costidis, stranding coordinator for the Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Response Team, "and their numbers in much of the Northwestern Atlantic are believed to be recovering.
"Unfortunately, preliminary data suggest that at least some of the local whales are spending considerable time in the Bay's shipping channels, which see considerable vessel traffic."
The first whale surfaced February 2 in the Chesapeake Bay near the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response team pulled the dead whale out of the water near Craney Island before performing a necropsy to determine a cause of death.
A second humpback whale washed onto the Eastern Shore on Tuesday, February 7, after being spotted near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel February 5. Officials estimated the roughly 35-foot, 6- to 8-year-old male whale weighed 15,000 to 17,000 pounds.
The third whale washed ashore on Cape Henry in Virginia Beach on February 13. All three were determined dead after being struck by large ships. Two were specifically injured by propellers.