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Baby North Atlantic Right Whale — One of Only 360 Left in the World — Dies After Vessel Strike

The whale calf was first observed in January with serious injuries to its mouth and head

<p>NOAA</p> A photo of a North Atlantic right whale calf (bottom) and its mother Juno (top) taken in January 2023 before the baby whale

NOAA

A photo of a North Atlantic right whale calf (bottom) and its mother Juno (top) taken in January 2023 before the baby whale's death

Animal lovers are mourning the loss of a whale calf from a critically endangered species.

On Monday, NOAA Fisheries confirmed the death of a young North Atlantic right whale. According to the agency, NOAA Fisheries was notified of the whale calf's death the day before.

NOAA Fisheries, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission worked together to identify the dead whale, who was found stranded on the Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.

"We identified the whale as the injured 2024 calf of right whale #1612 'Juno,'" NOAA Fisheries shared on its website.

The agency said ahead of the whale calf's death, the animal was observed with injuries. NOAA Fisheries said it spotted the baby whale for the first time on Jan. 3 and observed "serious injuries to its head, mouth, and lip from a vessel strike."

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NOAA Fisheries did not confirm if the vessel strike injuries resulted in the young animal's death but did state the calf's "unique injuries and markings" helped the agency identify the marine mammal.

Unfortunately, the carcass of the whale calf was heavily scavenged by other animals before experts found it, so more testing will be required to get answers about the baby whale's death.

"Due to the state of the carcass, we will use genetic testing to determine the sex. We will continue to work with our partners to perform a necropsy and evaluate the vessel strike wounds," NOAA Fisheries shared on its website.

<p>Getty</p> A stock photo of a North Atlantic right whale

Getty

A stock photo of a North Atlantic right whale

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The death of this young animal is made more painful by its species' conservation status. North Atlantic right whales are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to NOAA, an estimated 360 North Atlantic right whales are left in the wild, with reproductively active females only accounting for about 70 of those whales.

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In 2017, NOAA declared an "Unusual Mortality Event (UME)" for North Atlantic right whales after noticing increased mortalities among the species. The agency listed entanglements and vessel strikes as the suspected causes for the increase in North Atlantic right whale deaths.

Thirty-nine North Atlantic right whales, including the calf, confirmed dead Monday, have died in connection to the Unusual Mortality Event since NOAA started documenting the issue in 2017.

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