Dead Dall’s Porpoise not yet cause for concern

The necropsy results of a young Dall’s Porpoise that washed up on South Douglas on Tuesday morning seem to indicate that the animal’s body and tissue were in good condition when it died, according to Kate Savage, a veterinarian and biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

After conducting a necropsy at the Ted Steven Marine Research Institute on Wednesday, Savage sent samples from the five-foot-long female porpoise to a pathologist in Anchorage to test for any algal-bloom toxins, diseases or other abnormalities not easily visible.

“We did not find any gross legions during the necropsy,” she said. “Just because we don’t see anything external with the naked eye doesn’t mean there’s nothing there”

Though Savage doesn’t know why the porpoise died, she said that there were no “alarm bells” that indicated that it had been poisoned by algal toxins, which have caused problems for Alaskan marine life in recent years.

Savage said she’s not likely to have the pathologist’s results back for another month and that it is difficult to determine a cause of death for many marine mammals.

“We usually only see the animal at one time, and that’s when it’s dead on the beach,” she said.

Dall’s Porpoises are quite common in Southeast Alaska and are often mistake for baby Orcas due to their black and white coloring, Savage said. Unlike Orcas, however, Dall’s Porpoises only grow to about seven or eight feet in length. Savage is unsure exactly how old the porpoise was that washed up on South Douglas, but she knows that it hadn’t reached adulthood.

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