Subject: Stranding: False Killer Whale Summary

mike williamson (
Mon, 8 Sep 1997 11:59:07 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Mon, 8 Sep 1997 11:48:18 -0400 (EDT)
From: Fred Wenzel <>
Subject: False Killer Whale

Rare Whale Strands on Cape Cod (Massachusetts)

	On Wednesday, August 13, 1997 an 11 foot, female False Killer
Whale (Pseudorca crassidens) stranded on the south side of Cape Cod. First
reported alive on Tuesday on Nantucket Island where beach-goers, twice
pushed the whale off the beach.  The whale was found alive, but in very
poor condition, on Wednesday morning in the Centerville River,
Centerville, Massachusetts.  
	Scientists and the veterinary staff from the New England Aquarium
and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute euthanized the animal and conducted
a necropsy later that day in Woods Hole.  The skeleton has been saved for
the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C.
	False killer whales in the western North Atlantic reach a length
of at least 18 feet (5.5 meters).  Males are generally slightly larger
than females.  Their bodies are long and slender, with a narrow tapering
head.  They have a tall falcate dorsal fin on an all black body (except
for a small patch of gray found ventrally between their pectoral
flippers).  This species is considered a pelagic species, found in
tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate waters where they form large
schools of up to 100 animals.  Records from throughout the world suggest
that this species has an oceanic distribution.  
	It is believed that this species feeds primarily on squid and
large fish and have been noted for their habit of stealing fish from the
lines of fishermen.  Strandings of false killer whales in the North
Atlantic Ocean have been reported as a "commonly occuring" in the waters
around Scotland and the United Kingdom and rare along the southeastern
United States, Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean islands.  Charles
Potter of the Marine Mammal Department, National Museum of Natural
History at Smithsonian Institution, stressed the importance of this
stranding event as it is the "first reported stranding for this species in
the western North Atlantic north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
	If you find a dead or alive, stranded marine mammal (whale,
dolphin, seal, sea lion) and/or sea turtle, it is recommend that you
follow these directions;
**Do not attempt to remove the animal from the area or return it to the
water.  Seals for example, temporarily "haul out" on land to rest and
mothers will briefly leave their crying pups while feeding at sea.  
**Observe the animal from a distance.  Keep people and dogs away.
Remember marine mammals can inflict serious injury and transmit diseases.
**Note the physical characteristics and condition of the animal such as;
size, length, color, number of animals.  Is it active or in a weaken
state?  Are there any wounds or bleeding?
**Determine the exact location of the animal for accurate directions.
**Quickly Call your regional National Marine Fisheries Service Office,
regional aquarium, police department or animal control officer and provide
them with the information you gathered.  Sun, heat, waves, and surf will
quickly weaken an animal which is  already in a weakened state.  In
Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire, a 24 hour hotline is available to
respond to marine mammal emergencies 1-617-973-5247 (New England
     Every U.S. state has an organization responsible for
marine mammals in distress.  Remember, marine mammals and sea turtles are
protected by federal law.  It is illegal for unauthorized persons to
handle or harass them.