Dan Kirkwood of Pack Creek Bear Tours takes photos the humpback whale carcass that washed ashore Admiralty Island on the backside of Douglas Island on Thursday, May 31, 2018.
© Riley Woodford
Dan Kirkwood of Pack Creek Bear Tours takes photos the humpback whale carcass that washed ashore Admiralty Island on the backside of Douglas Island on Thursday, May 31, 2018.
A humpback whale has washed up dead on Admiralty Island across from Douglas Island, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. It's not clear yet how the whale died or if it was struck by a vessel.

NOAA spokesperson Julie Speegle said the carcass has most recently been spotted on the beach at Point Young, which juts out from Admiralty Island into Stephens Passage on the backside of Douglas. NOAA believes the whale carcass has come to rest there after being beached in other places.

"It's on the beach pretty high up and we don't anticipate it will refloat, so at this point it's not a hazard to navigation," Speegle said.

Speegle said NOAA hasn't been able to determine the animal's age or sex by the photos provided to them, but they were able to confirm the carcass is that of a humpback whale. Speegle said NOAA hasn't received any new reports of a vessel striking a whale.

NOAA Protected Resources Division first received reports of a dead humpback whale in the area Sunday, Speegle said. Several reports of the whale have come in since then, with different locations given. On Thursday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game received a report from a pilot who had spotted the whale beached on Douglas Island, according to ADFG wildlife scientist Lori Polasek. Tides have been high recently, Polasek said, and the whale could have beached at several different locations during the course of the week.

People should stay away from the whale carcass as a "dead whale on the beach is definitely a bear attractant," Speegle said. It's a federal crime for a member of the public to remove parts of a dead marine mammal without permission, she added.

NOAA will send a team to do a necropsy of the whale on Saturday, Speegle said. Scientists will study the whale and take tissue samples to try and determine how it died.

That information will go into the Marine Mammal Stranding Network database, Speegle said, a collaborative effort which helps researchers identify patterns between marine mammal deaths. Scientists use the database to keep an eye out for trends or troubling clusters of whale deaths.

"For instance, if we found that if humpback whales were emaciated, then we may think there was something wrong with them not getting enough food," Speegle said.