NEW YORK - A 60-foot whale was found dead Thursday after getting stranded on a beach in a coastal enclave of New York City that was ravaged by Sandy.
The animal - part of an endangered species known as finback or fin whales - was severely emaciated but clinging to life when it was discovered Wednesday stranded on the bay side of Breezy Point. Volunteer firefighters sprayed water on the whale as it sat halfway out of the water.
At high tide, the whale drifted away and out of sight before washing ashore again Thursday morning, this time having stopped breathing, said Mendy Garron of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Marine experts later confirmed the animal was dead. They planned to perform a necropsy to determine a cause of death before burying the giant carcass, said Kimberly Durham of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research.
The experts had given little hope the whale would survive because it appeared to weigh only about 20 to 30 tons - less than half normal. The whale appeared to have scratches or streaks of blood on its body, but no signs of serious trauma suggesting it had been hit by a boat.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the finback averages 70 feet in length and 70 tons - second in size only to the blue whale. It also is one of nature's fastest whales, capable of short bursts of up to 35 m.p.h.
The species was placed on the endangered list after whaling decimated its numbers in the North Atlantic before a 1987 ban. Some estimates put the current count in the North Atlantic below 2,000. Experts say the biggest threats to the finbacks are collisions with large ships, entanglement with fishing gear, and a depletion of food supply because of overfishing.