A marine mammal response team received a call on Sunday morning about a stranded humpback whale, but the calf was already dead by the time volunteers arrived in Waianae.
"It had not been deceased for that long. We're unsure of the exact age of the animal. It is a young animal. Until we conduct a necropsy, we won't be able to tell how old it is at this point," explained Dera Look, NOAA Assistant Marine Mammal Response Coordinator.
After a necropsy was conducted, Jeff Walters of NOAA fisheries said they did not find any obvious cause of death for the male humpback calf, which they determined to be between one and four months old.
Look estimated the 15-foot whale weighed up to 2,000 pounds. The team worked with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to remove the animal from the rocky shoreline. Volunteers tied ropes around the carcass and took it to the Waianae Small Boat Harbor first.
"We were able to transport it to Hawaii Pacific university who holds a stranding agreement with NOAA Fisheries to conduct necropsies on stranded animals," Look said.
It's unclear if an illness or a boat strike caused the calf to die.
"There's a lot of reef rash on the animal, so it was probably from being up on the reef and moving back and forth. Abrasions from that, other than that there's no indication of any external trauma," Look said.
At least two other young humpbacks have died this year. A whale reportedly suffering from a respiratory infection had to be sedated on a reef in Aina Haina in January. A week earlier, a calf washed up on Lanai.