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Dead whale spends night in Rye parking lot after movers realize they're going to need a bigger tote

Union Leader Correspondent

September 18. 2018 4:49PM
A minke whale that washed up at Jenness State Beach in Rye remained in the parking lot until a larger dumpster could be brought Tuesday to carry it to a composting site. (Jason Schreiber/Correspondent)

RYE - The dead minke whale that didn’t quite fit in a small dumpster spent Monday night sitting in the parking lot at Jenness State Beach awaiting a larger one that arrived Tuesday morning.

The dumpster was used to safely transport the 16-foot juvenile whale from the beach to a site where it will be examined by marine biologists Wednesday morning to determine a cause of death.

The remains will then be composted, according to Ashley Stokes, manager of the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team.

The whale’s removal became a bit of a public spectacle after it washed ashore Monday morning and was then hauled off the beach by a front end loader and carried to a dumpster that was brought to the parking lot.

The removal process took a bad turn when the operator of the front end loader lowered the whale to to drop it into the dumpster and it slid off the side and landed in the parking lot because it was too large.

Stokes said the state provided the dumpster while the town supplied the equipment used to carry it off the beach. She said measurements weren’t given to the state, which is why the smaller dumpster was brought in for the first try.

While officials knew a larger container would be better, Stokes said the hope was that the whale would fit diagonally. The plan didn’t work and it became clear that a larger container would be needed.

“It is unfortunate, but we had the DPW guys there and they wanted to give it a shot. Now we know to specify the size to the town and the state. Accidents happen everywhere, not just in marine mammal rescue, and we learn from them,” Stokes said.

The whale was left in the parking lot after it was dropped and was covered and barricades were placed around it Monday night to protect it overnight.

Representatives from NOAA Fisheries, Fish and Game, and state and local officials also were on site Tuesday morning and assisted with the removal.

While a large humpback whale that washed up in Rye in 2016 was dissected on the beach because it was too big to move and its remains later removed and composted, Stokes said it’s better to bring the smaller whales to the composting site for necropsies, which are animal autopsies.

According to Stokes, performing the necropsy on the beach would have created a larger spectacle and likely drawn thousands of onlookers who would have nowhere to park because the parking lot is currently closed due to construction.

Stokes noted that using a dumpster to transport a whale keeps it contained and prevents any bodily fluids from leaking as it’s being taken away.

As for the whale, Stokes said it’s possible it died after becoming tangled in fishing gear and stressed the importance of conducting the necropsy because of other minke whale deaths this year in Maine and Massachusetts.

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