Dead Minke whale on the beach at St Andrews
Dead Minke whale on the beach at St Andrews
A 23ft whale has washed up on a popular Scots beach after becoming tangled in fishing gear and drowning.

The mammal, which is believed to be an adult male Minke whale, was spotted lying on the West Sands beach in St Andrews, Fife, on Wednesday evening.

Experts from the SRUC's Marine Animal Strandings Scheme travelled to the scene today to carry out an autopsy on the massive mammal.

Members of the public are being urged not to touch the whale and to simply observe it from afar over fears the animal could be carrying infectious bacteria.

Expert Dr Andrew Brownlow said: "There's a huge public interest in this because they're amazing animals that are from our coastline and I think there's a certain level of wonder about the size of them given that they are mammals.

"The chance of people picking up anything is actually very small. They carry some diseases which can be harmful but in general they're actually relatively benign.

"But you never know. That's the whole point - we've no idea what these animals are carrying and that's why we do these post mortems.

"It's a dead animal - you wouldn't ever go and stick your two-year-old toddler sitting on a cow that had been dead for a couple of days."

He added that despite the soaring temperatures on Scotland's coastline, it's unlikely this particular species of whale could explode.

"Whales will gas up but this species is not as prone to exploding as say a sperm whale - they're notorious for it.

"Their physiology and anatomy isn't quite the same as Sperm whales - those things are like submarines so they are a very different undertaking for a post mortem.

"We're hopeful that this one should be okay but for all these reasons it's not a good idea for people to go down and prod it."

Dr Brownlow, who has seen pictures of the whale and its various injuries, believes it may have become tangled in fishing ropes and creel nets - causing it to drown.

He added: "From the sight of it, it looks like it's been entangled at some point in fishing ropes and some creel ropes.

"There's some photos of the tail stock and there's a few marks on that that would be very consistent with what we see when animals get entangled in the ropes that attach.

"The creel lines, there's a rope that goes from the creel which is on the seabed up to the buoy, and that can tangle these sort of whales because of the way that they feed as they move through the water.

"They interact with these ropes and then unfortunately when that happens, they tend to sort of spin and in the process of doing that they get themselves very trapped and they can't get free and it can lead to them drowning.

"That's what we think might have happened but we're going to go down to do a full post mortem to have a look at what's been going on."