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Sowerby’s beaked whale dies after repeated stranding on Moray Firth coastline at Ardersier in the Highlands

By Philip Murray

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Rescuers with the beached whale, which sadly died.
Rescuers with the beached whale, which sadly died.

A deep-diving whale which stranded on a Highland beach has died.

The Sowerby's beaked whale was found at Ardersier and sparked a rescue operation involving the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

It was the second whale of the same species to beach at Ardersier in the past two years.

The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme is now investigating the latest death.

Sowerby’s beaked whales have a long, slender beak resembling a dolphin's, and in fact are more dolphin-like than other beaked whales.

BDMLR medics responded to the whale after it stranded in shallow water on Monday.

Rescuers with the beached whale, which sadly died.
Rescuers with the beached whale, which sadly died.

First aid was administered and the whale swam briefly away from shore but re-stranded within minutes.

"Unfortunately the whale was in very poor condition and displaying high levels of stress," said a spokesperson for BDMLR.

"Sowerby's beaked whales are a deep diving whale, and given it being far from its usual habitat, its poor state of health, repeated strandings, and obvious distress, the kindest decision was made to, unfortunately, euthanise the whale. The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme will now conduct a post-mortem for further investigations."

Although they are one of the most commonly stranded of beaked whales relatively little is known about their behaviour, say Whale and Dolphin Conservation. They are seldom seen at sea, and when they are, can dive for extended periods of time.

They are however, known to bring their heads out of the water at a steep angle when surfacing and have been seen tail-slapping, breaching and spy-hopping. Strandings of up to six individuals have been recorded and when alive, group sizes range from three up to ten individuals.

Sowerby's beaked whales have one of the most northerly distributions of all the beaked whales and are found predominantly in the eastern North Atlantic.

Like other beaked whales and other deep divers, they feed primarily on squid and small fish, including Atlantic cod.

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