Beached whale in Galveston suffered infection

A pygmy sperm whale became stranded in shallow water along a Galveston Island beach. The rescued whale was transported to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network facility by their experts and the Galveston Fire Department. (Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Galveston Police Department)

February 25, 2011 8:13:39 AM PST
The necropsy results show a 12-foot pygmy sperm whale found that beached itself in Galveston was already ill. A girl and her father discovered the whale on Galveston's west end at around 7:30am Wednesday. The whale was found in about a foot of water, near Silver Leaf Resort.

Officials with the Galveston Fire Department helped transport the 1,500 pound whale to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) facility, where veterinary experts determined its health was failing. Because of the poor prognosis, and the fact that pygmy sperm whales have not been able to survive in captivity, the decision was made to euthanize the animal.

A nine hour necropsy was conducted by TMMSN pathologist, Dr. Daniel Cowan, staff and volunteers. Preliminary necropsy findings show that the animal was suffering from a bacterial infection. There was also a large abscess near the whale's throat too far advanced for treatment that may have contributed to further complication throughout the body. In addition, evidence of heart failure was also found.

Experts believe the abscess is likely what brought the whale to the beach. Microscopic studies will be completed on the tissue samples collected during the necropsy and a formal report prepared. They hope the information gained during the necropsy will aid researchers in their growing knowledge of the species.