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Humpback Whale Euthanized After Days Stuck in NY Bay

Residents and boaters stood vigil on the shore as they waited to hear the fate of the whale

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    Critics say the humpback in Moriches Bay could have been saved had officials responded more quickly. Greg Cergol reports. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016)

    A 25-foot-long humpback whale that got stuck in a Long Island bay over the weekend was euthanized Wednesday afternoon, authorities said. 

    The mammal got stuck on a sandbar in Moriches Bay, east of New York's Hamptons, over the weekend and had been in the area for more than a week before that.

    A veterinary team from NOAA spent hours around the whale assessing its health and found the animal was thin, limp, weak and minimally responsive.

    They said it also had neurological abnormalities and possible infections. They euthanized it with injectable medications, saying it was the most humane option.

    Experts plan to conduct a necropsy. They said when whales become stranded it generally indicates underlying health issues. 

    The NOAA team arrived three days after the whale first became stuck on the sandbar, and an official said Wednesday that the whale was too distressed to get it rescued.

    But residents and boaters who stood vigil on the shore as they waited to hear the fate of the whale said the response was too little, too late.

    "NOAA screwed this up," said Lenny Kalmar, who was part of a group of local fishermen and residents who mobilized boats and even a barge earlier in the week to try to get the 20-ton animal back into deeper waters before they were turned away by the Coast Guard and Suffolk police. "We were able to save that whale and put it back in the ocean, and they said no." 

    "I can't believe this is going on," said Wendy Poole, who burst into tears when the whale was euthanized. "We were able to save that whale." 

    The Riverhead Foundation of Marine Research and Preservation also made several efforts to dislodge the whale but couldn't.

    "Even if you get four boats, ten boats, it's 20 tons," Chuck Bowman, a marine life expert also watching at the shore, said Tuesday. "It's not gonna happen, and you're stressing the animal." 

    Humpback whales are common in the region. One recently has been seen swimming in the Hudson River.