OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) — Hundreds of people flocked to the beach in Oak Island Thursday morning to catch a glimpse of a young sperm whale that had washed up close to shore.
According to a spokesperson for the town, the beached whale was first reported around 9:45 a.m.
Spokesperson Kyle Thomas said the whale, which is nearly 30 feet long, is located near East 22nd Street.
William McLellan, the coordinator for the UNCW marine mammal stranding program, said the whale is “terribly emaciated” and is approximately 2-3 years old.
“Having it here in the surf is a place the animal should never be,” said McLellan. Sperm whales usually live at least 200 miles offshore and being on land can cause tissue and organ damage.
McLellan said veterinarians were on their way to provide sedatives for the whale to ease its pain.
McLellan said there are three viable options to help the animal.
First, push the whale back into the sea. This would be difficult since the whale weighs between 25,000 to 30,000 pounds and is already in bad shape.
Second, take the whale into rehab, though, McLellan admitted this was a rare option.
The third option is to euthanize it.
McLellan said the young whale was around the age they leave their mothers, so it may have gotten separated too soon and hasn’t been doing what it needs to do to stay alive.
So far, there are no signs any human interaction caused the whale to beach itself.
“This is exceedingly rare to have a sperm whale here on the beach in North Carolina,” McLellan added. “We get one every three, four, five years.”