On Monday, a video from New Hampshire showed a forklift dropping a dead whale on top of a dumpster — and then the animal flopping to the concrete blow.
Now Kevin Walsh, chief of the Rye Police Department, has an explanation for why that happened, according to NBC. Police identified the deceased whale as a baby when it washed ashore on Monday, Walsh said, so workers assumed that it could fit into the small dumpster, which would be used to transport the animal for an autopsy.
Walsh said his department didn’t provide any measurements of the whale, according to NBC, and that proved to be a big “mistake.”
“We said, ‘baby whale,’ so everyone thought it was a small whale,” the police chief said, according to NBC. “We should have measured the length of the animal so it was clear what size container we would need.”
It was around 6 a.m. when a person walking along Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire, came upon the whale, according to The Seacoast Online. The whale, weighing around 4,000 pounds and about 16 feet long, likely ended up on the beach late Sunday night, police say.
Ashley Stokes, manager of the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team, said state officials first tried to fit the dead whale inside the dumpster because they had no idea how big the whale would be until it arrived, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader.
Stokes said the forklift operator hoped the whale would fit if it was dropped into the dumpster diagonally, The New Hampshire Union Leader reported, but the attempt proved to be a failure.
The whale, guarded by barricades, was left in the parking lot through Monday night, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader.
“Now we know to specify the size to the town and the state,” Stokes said, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader. “Accidents happen everywhere, not just in marine mammal rescue, and we learn from them.”
The following day, the whale was put into a larger container and sent away for autopsy testing, Walsh said, according to Buzzfeed News. The police chief told the outlet that the experience is pushing him to “make that sure that I communicate better (and) to ensure that we get the right equipment to do the right job.”
The whale was set for a necropsy on Wednesday to help determine how it died, according to NBC.
The discovery of the animal comes during a puzzling slate of whale deaths in the area, according to Live Science. Katie Pugliares-Bonner, senior biologist and necropsy specialist at the New England Aquarium, said in an interview with the outlet that “there are currently unusual mortality events in our area involving three different species of large whales.”
Live Science reported that those three species are: humpback whales, North Atlantic right whales and Minke whales, which is the species of the whale that beached on Monday.
Jennifer Goebel, a spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries, said 27 Minke whales washed up dead in 2017 between Maine and South Carolina. Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said it’s “not completely clear” what killed the young whale, according to The Seacoast Online.
LaCasse said since August, about one dead whale a week has shown up on the beaches of the Greater Massachusetts area, according to NH1. He said the number of deaths show that “we are in unprecedented territory.”
Stokes theorized the whale’s death might have been a result of getting tangled in fishing gear, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader. After a cause of death is finally determined from the necropsy, the newspaper wrote, the whale’s remains will be composted.
As Walsh says he takes “full responsibility” for the whale falling from a dumpster, some residents of Rye say they are left disappointed.
“It’s too bad they didn’t manage it a little bit better,” Jen Carney said, according to NBC.