Dead endangered whale may have been hit by ship

Researchers say preliminary findings show an endangered North Atlantic right whale — one of only a few hundred left in the world — may have been struck and killed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts.

Only a few hundred North Atlantic right whales still exist in the world

North Atlantic right whales can occasionally be spotted along the Canadian and U.S. East Coast. Their numbers were decimated decades ago by whaling, and today are still suppressed by collisions with commercial ships and getting entangled in fishing nets. (Courtesy: New England Aquarium)

Researchers say preliminary findings show an endangered North Atlantic right whale may have been struck by a ship before the animal was found dead in Massachusetts waters.

Officials with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say bruising consistent with blunt trauma could be evidence of a ship strike.

The U.S. federal agency is urging vessels to keep a close watch for right whales, which often swim just below the water's surface and can be hard to see.

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered; only a few hundred still exist in the world. In recent decades, a significant percentage of their deaths have come from being struck by ships or getting entangled in fishing nets.

The eight-metre-long, one-year-old female was found dead in Cape Cod Bay on Thursday and towed to a harbour where it could be placed on a flatbed for transport. A final analysis is expected to take weeks.

With files from CBC News