Stranding response team: Whale deceased in St. Julien’s Creek

Whale in St. Julien's Creek on Aug. 21, 2014. (WAVY/Larry Carney)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team said a whale spotted in the Elizabeth River this week has died.

The whale was seen motionless in the area of St. Julien’s Creek Thursday morning, and by the evening two boats were towing its body to Craney Island for a necropsy

The stranding response team had been following the whale’s progress this week, while the disoriented mammal swam in local waters. Teams began monitoring the whale on Thursday of last week when the Coast Guard spotted it in the James River between the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. From there, it moved into the Elizabeth River.

The stranding response team said the whale looked thin and disoriented, but there were no obvious signs of entanglement or injury.

The mammal was on a sandbar Wednesday near the Gilmerton Bridge, but had moved by Thursday morning. The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team arrived around 12:25 p.m. to check on the whale in St. Julien’s Creek, and determined it had passed away.

Commercial crabber Ed Ruehle said he saw the whale Thursday morning, while picking up his crab pots.

“We’d come out last night and seen it was stranded down the creek here, and when I’d come out of the creek here this morning, to run down the creek and pull some pots, it had moved,” said Ruehle.

Several people who live nearby came out to look at the whale, including Terrence Hensley.

“I think it’s crazy, big old whale just came up,” he said. “That’s where we crab and fish at. You’d never expect a whale to come over here.”

According to Joan Barns with the Virginia Aquarium, a necropsy will be performed Friday. She said the necropsy is expected to take a full day, and an initial exam may not indicate the whale’s cause of death. 

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