Wildlife & Nature

Stranded Potter Pond Fin Whale Euthanized


This stranded fin whale was discovered early Feb. 29 in Potter Pond in South Kingstown, R.I. (Meagan Seacor/Mystic Aquarium)

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Staffers from the Animal Rescue Program at Mystic Aquarium, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, responded Feb. 29 to a stranding of a 42-foot, 25,000-pound fin whale in Potter Pond. The whale was initially spotted in the early morning by a local resident.

The Animal Rescue team and veterinarians responded. Upon arrival, the whale was found to be emaciated and in a compromised state, according to DEM. After a thorough evaluation by Mystic Aquarium’s veterinary team, the whale didn’t seem to have any apparent or obvious wounds or signs of immediate cause of stranding.

After consulting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other network partners with expertise in large whales, it was decided “to wait for high tide in hopes that the animal would refloat and navigate out of the area,” DEM said. The whale, however, wasn’t able to right itself.

With the animal’s welfare the top priority and considering the poor condition and low likelihood of survival, DEM said the decision was made to use medical intervention to alleviate the whale’s suffering. Mystic Aquarium and DEM personnel were with the whale when it passed away around 9:30 p.m.

“Whales are magnificent creatures and it’s very sad when these circumstances occur,” said Scott Olszewski, a marine biologist and deputy chief of DEM’s Division of Marine Fisheries, which partners with Mystic Aquarium on whale strandings in Rhode Island. “Given this fin whale’s extremely compromised state, intervening medically was the most humane way of easing its suffering.”

The whale was transported to DEM facilities, where staff and external partners will conduct a necropsy.

Through the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NOAA coordinates a network of organizations, including Mystic Aquarium, to respond to stranded or beached whales, dolphins, or porpoises in Connecticut and Rhode Island. DEM supports Mystic Aquarium in their rescue endeavors.

“These cases are always heartbreaking, seeing such a beautiful animal in a compromised state,” said Sarah Callan, the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program manager. “As sad as the outcome is here, I feel some relief that this animal is now at peace. We’ll collect a lot of data today and not only learn more about what happened with this specific whale, but also different threats that this species faces as a whole.”

“The nearby homeowners were bringing us coffee … and we were getting emails with prayers for the whale,” said Francesa Battaglia, Animal Rescue Program technician. “The community rallied to keep our spirits up, and we’re just really grateful.”


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  1. “We don’t know what is killing all of the whales but we know it’s not offshore wind.” Fixed it.

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