Snowplow the Humpback Whale

Snowplow, an 18-year-old female humpback whale, washed up on a Rye beach on Monday, June 27th. Our Marine Mammal Rescue Team was onsite, coordinating the response with town, state, and federal officials.

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June 30, 2016

On Wednesday, June 29, Snowplow, the 18-year-old humpback whale that washed up on Foss Beach by Rye Harbor Sate Park was successfully removed from the beach. Measuring in at 45′ and approximately 40 tons, the effort to move the massive carcass took the coordination of many institutions, and town, state, and federal agencies.

Because the whale’s death was premature (humpbacks live up to 75 years) a thorough investigation was performed. There were no external signs of human interaction; no evidence of a ship strike or entanglement. A necropsy (autopsy) was led by the New England Aquarium in hope that tissue and fluid samples will provide clues as to cause of death. It will take 3-4 weeks for results, which we will announce as soon as possible.

Snowplow’s bones were collected by MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for conservation and future display for educational purposes. Her soft tissue will be organically composted.

Thousands of on-lookers visited the site over the past three days, paying their respect for the magnificent marine mammal, and curious to learn more. Volunteers were available to educate people about humpback whales and answer questions.

Special thanks go to all of the partners who made the investigation and removal possible: NOAA Fisheries, NH Fish and Game, Town of Rye, Rye Police and Fire, State of New Hampshire, NH Division of Parks, NH Department of Transportation, NH Department of Environmental Services, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, New England Aquarium, Center for Coastal Studies, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, Seacoast Science Center, and NH Marine Mammal Rescue Team.

Watch this video to learn more about Snowplow and her necropsy and carcass removal from NH Marine Mammal Rescue Coordinator Ashley Stokes.

June 28, 2016

On Monday morning, June 27, Snowplow, an 18-year-old female humpback whale washed up on Foss Beach by Rye Harbor Sate Park in Rye, New Hampshire. The whale was spotted floating 20 miles offshore the previous day.

Scientists identify humpback whales by the pattern on their fluke, which is unique as a fingerprint. Humpback whales are an endangered species.

Snowplow measures at 45’ in length and weighs approximately 40 tons. Her pectoral (side) flippers measure in at almost 9 1/2 feet, and her fluke/tail is 14 feet wide.

Snowplow was last seen swimming on September 17, 2015 in the Great South Channel in the Gulf of Maine, identified by the Center for Coastal Studies, Provincetown, MA. She has no known offspring.

Officials from the Center, Rye, and the State joined Federal representatives on Tuesday to determine the best course of action to both protect the public’s health and to advance marine mammal biology.

It was determined that a necropsy (autopsy) will be conducted on Wednesday, June 29, to try to determine cause of death. The New England Aquarium will lead the necropsy, SSC  Marine Mammal Rescue Coordinator Ashley Stokes and MMR Assistant Rob Royer will assist.

Please be advised that viewing opportunities will be very limited and parking in the area will not be allowed. The necropsy scene will extremely graphic and the smell, pungent. You can check back here for photographs or visit our New Hampshire Marine Mammal Rescue Facebook page.

Snowplow’s skeleton will be conserved for exhibition at a museum or educational institution in New England.

All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, enacted by the federal government on October 21,1972. Fulfilling this requirement, the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team staffs a 24/7 hotline (603-997-9448) and deploys first responders. Collaborating with New England Aquarium and rehabilitation facilities in the region, the Center leads the response and rescue, the Aquarium conducts the necropsies, and rehabilitation facilities care for and release animals.

It costs approximately $80,000 to operate New Hampshire’s Marine Mammal Rescue Program, excluding major events such as this. The Center relies heavily on donations from the community to stay ready to respond. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation now. You can give online here, by phone at 603-436-8043, or by mailing your gift to Seacoast Science Center, 570 Ocean Blvd., Rye, NH 03870.


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