Beaked Whale Strandings in Kerry

14th Jul 2015

On 3 July, a juvenile cetacean was found live stranded at Cappagh Strand, Cloghane, Co. Kerry. Its young age was apparent with a length of 1.2m and the presence of neo natal folds. The calf was refloated but died later. Later that night, a larger whale around 5m in length was spotted close by in mudflats near Cloghane. Photos of this animal showed it to be a female beaked whale and further investigation revealed it to be a female Sowerby’s beaked whale – a species which strands occasionally but infrequently in Ireland.

Speculation after the second stranding led to a re-examination of the photos taken of the calf in the water and it was soon realised that someone (ie me...) had misidentified the calf which turned out to be a beaked whale also! It’s reasonable to assume that the female adult was the calf’s mother and that this was a similar situation to the close but separate strandings of a mother and calf True’s beaked whale on 12 May and 14 May 2013 near Malin Head, Co. Donegal.

Unfortunately, the carcass of the calf in Cloghane was lost after being put back in the water but some samples were taken from the adult for analysis. As there is no general or targeted post mortem scheme in Ireland we will once again remain in the dark as to the cause of this unusual stranding. Thanks to local IWDG contact Louise Overy for keeping us up to speed on this story.