Rare right whale discovered stranded on North Carolina beach

One of the rarest species of whales, a North Atlantic right whale, was found dead on a beach in North Carolina last week, wildlife officials said.

The whale calf was discovered on North Core Banks, Cape Lookout National Seashore said in a Facebook post.

“A team of leading biologists in the field of marine mammals are out [Nov. 21] to do a necropsy to try to figure out what caused this death,” Cape Lookout said in the post. “The team took samples, including DNA, that will hopefully determine the calf’s mother. Most of the population of 360 animals are known individuals.”

With a population size of less than 400, North Atlantic right whales are “critically endangered,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In a statement discussing the death, NOAA said it appeared the whale calf “died during or shortly after birth.”

The death was described by NOAA as a “devastating start” to the right whale calving season, which starts in mid-November and continues through mid-April.

Since 2017, North Atlantic right whales have experienced an “unusual mortality event” (UME), resulting in the deaths of “at least” 32 right whales and injuries caused to 13 more.

“This represents more than 10 percent of the remaining population,” NOAA added. “The leading causes of the UME are vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.”