Ailing whale dies, bones will go to Cowichan Tribes

The juvenile humpback whale that was the subject of a search over several days in Cowichan Bay is dead.

The juvenile humpback whale that was the subject of a search over several days in Cowichan Bay is dead.

The approximately seven-metre-long whale was discovered on a beach on private industrial land in the bay on Tuesday afternoon.

Paul Cottrell, a marine biologist with the DFO, said a necropsy on the whale is planned.

He said it was originally thought that the young whale may have been separated from its mother and died of starvation.

But the fact that the whale is a little larger than first reported means that biologists will have to wait until the results of the necropsy are determined to find the exact cause, and that can take up to a year.

Cottrell said that once the tissue samples are taken for the necropsy, the whale will be moved to an undisclosed site nearby where it will be buried.

“The Cowichan First Nation has expressed an interest in the skeleton, so once all the tissue decays and falls off while it is buried in the sand, the skeleton will be dug up and put on display,” he said.

“It will be a great community use for it.”

The whale was obviously ill when it was first seen in Cowichan Bay on Aug. 20.

Initial reports stated that the animal wasn’t moving on its own and was drifting with the tide, but a visual inspection of the marine mammal by a diver at the time showed no obvious injuries or net entanglement.

Humpback whales typically begin weaning away from their mothers before they are one year old, and they have a high mortality rate in their first few years of life.

It’s estimated that up to 4,000 humpback whales may regularly visit B.C.’s coast and the Strait of Georgia, particularly in the summer months.