Rare Whale Washes Up on Massachusetts Beach

A rare whale, normally found hundreds of miles away from land, died Tuesday after washing up on a Massachusetts beach.

The pygmy sperm whale was alive when it was first spotted on Steep Hill Beach in Ipswich. Park managers and police were called to the scene, and they notified the marine mammal rescue staff from New Hampshire's Seacoast Science Center, located in Rye. Police say the whale died before a rescue attempt could be made.

The whale's head was bloodied, but the New England Aquarium says this may have been a result from thrashing in the shallow coastal waters. Pygmy sperm whales are most commonly found more than 100 miles out to sea on the edge of the continental shelf, according to the aquarium.

Staff from the aquarium noted no more than three strandings of pygmy sperm whales in New England in the last 15 years. One of those animals washed up on Martha's Vineyard in 2009. In the southeastern United States, the animals are stranded much more frequently, often being killed by boats and by eating plastic debris.

The whale that died in Ipswich, which measured 9.5 feet and weighed about 800 pounds, was expected to be moved late Tuesday or early Wednesday. It will be studied at the New England Aquarium's necropsy facility in Quincy.

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