PALM COAST, Fla. – A necropsy has been done on a 21-foot orca that died after washing up Wednesday morning on the beach at Jungle Hut Park in Palm Coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The necropsy found no sign of human effects and nothing ingested.
The orca was a mature, older female and had disease processes in her stomach and reproductive organs.
Tissue samples were taken for further analysis.
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Marine biologists with SeaWorld and officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assisted with the necropsy and removal of the orca.
According to Blair Mase of NOAA, this incident was “extremely rare,” as there has never been a recorded incident of an orca becoming stranded anywhere in Florida or the Southeast.
Officials said the approximately 6,000-pound orca appeared to be alive when she was first found.
NOAA said its goal now is to find out how she died. Mase said whales typically travel in pods and they will have to determine what happened to her to understand why she separated herself.
The mammals, also known as killer whales, are primarily Pacific Ocean species.
According to NOAA, they are found in every ocean in the world but are most abundant in colder waters like Antarctica, Norway, and Alaska. In rare cases, they are also found in tropical and subtropical waters, according to NOAA.
Orcas have been seen in warm water areas such as Florida, Hawaii, Australia, the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas, and the Gulf of Mexico, and more temperate waters such as New Zealand and South Africa, according to Sea World.
For years, they’ve been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico and a pod of orcas was seen in the Gulf in 2016.