North

Bowhead whale found dead, beached near Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is investigating after a bowhead whale was found dead on the Northwest Territories' Arctic coastline last Thursday.

'Not unusual' to have 1 or 2 dead bowheads a year, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist

This photo, taken from a helicopter on Aug. 21, shows a dead bowhead whale on its back on a beach north of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. Its tail is submerged in water. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is investigating after a bowhead whale was found dead on the Northwest Territories' Arctic coastline.

The cause of the whale's death is so far undetermined but there is no reason to link it to 30 dead whales found this summer in Alaska and six found off British Columbia, said a spokesperson for the department in an email.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada received a report of a beached bowhead whale near Toker Point, about 25 kilometres north of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., last Thursday.

Lois Harwood, a biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says beachcast bowheads are not uncommon in the region, with 24 on record between 1987 and 2014.

"It's not unusual to get one or two reported in a year, particularly when they're these smaller ones because it's likely that it's related to juvenile mortality," she said.

She said the whale was estimated to be about four years old.

Inuvik-area Fisheries and Oceans staff have taken samples from the carcass. They hope to confirm the whale's age but cause of death may be difficult to determine because of decomposition. ‎

'As soon as we saw the seagulls, I knew what it was'

Ron Felix, a hunter from Tuktoyaktuk, said he saw the whale when boating home from a caribou hunt at nearby Atkinson Point with his son, James. He said that a large number of seagulls alerted him to the carcass.

"As soon as we saw the seagulls, I knew what it was," he said. "There was a carcass in the bay, right in the beach there. It was black. Must be about 25 feet or so.

"I've never seen that," he said. "Never seen a bowhead on this side. So this is pretty rare."

Felix, who is also a carver, said that Tuktoyaktuk residents, including himself, may use the whale's bones to create artwork. He said that he expects the carcass to be eaten by animals, but isn't concerned about it attracting polar bears to Tuktoyaktuk.

"The odd one, the young ones may come up, but that's it," he said. "We have a lot of dogs here in town and they warn us if any animals come from the ice."

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