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© Erin Fernald
Triomphe, a humpback whale born off the Dominican Republic, was found dead recently on a Little Cranberry Island beach.
Scientists from the College of the Atlantic have identified the carcass of a 36-foot humpback whale that washed ashore on Little Cranberry Island on Christmas Day as Triomphe, a nearly 7-year-old male.

"The pigmentation on the flukes was sufficient to identify the individual," said Rosemary Seton, research associate and Marine Mammals Stranding Coordinator at the college's Allied Whale Program. "He was in our catalog, born in 2008 to a female humpback named Spar."

The whale was discovered on the afternoon of Dec. 25 and showed some signs that it had been entangled in fishing gear, Harbormaster Bruce Fernald said.

"There were some entanglement signs, but nothing I saw that was deep," he said. "You could just see a little groove in about two or three places on its tail - it was nothing that I would think would kill a whale, but I don't know."

Seton said it might be impossible to determine a cause of death.

"Even when you do necropsies, and can see things inside, finding the cause of death is not always easy," she said.

In this case, tissue samples were collected but a full necropsy will not be performed because of the scale of such an undertaking.

Seton said researchers at the Bar Harbor-based college on average deal with one dead humpback whale a year, but one year saw three.

"Last year, one was seen by one of our volunteers in Cutler," she said. "It was floating in the harbor and ended up on Great Spruce Island."