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"Festus," A Humpback Whale Spotted For Four Decades In Glacier Bay National Park, Is Dead


Glacier Bay National Park crews towed the carcass of a whale to shore so veterinarians could try to determine what caused its death/NPS

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska is famous for its namesake bay and the ringing mountains and glaciers, but it's also renowned for its marine life, particularly the humpback whales that make the park home for parts of the year. One whale that long has been a familiar resident of the bay, "Festus," is no more, having been found dead floating in the park's waters.

Glacier Bay Superintendent Philip Hooge says the whale's carcass was spotted off Point Carolus this past Sunday morning. Charter vessel operator Paul Johnson on the M/V Yakobi reported the whale to park staff around 10:20 a.m. that morning. After notifying the National Marine Fisheries Service, park staff towed the whale to shore on Sunday afternoon and made preparations for a necropsy examination by veterinarians.

A preliminary examination of the carcass by park biologists indicates that it is an adult male, approximately 40 feet in length. More information on the cause of death and the condition of the whale are expected to be available later this week, after the veterinary examination.

Fluke identification photos indicate that this was whale #441, nicknamed "Festus," who was first documented in 1972 in Lynn Canal by researcher Charles Jurasz. Festus was last sighted in June 2015 in Glacier Bay. With a 44-year sighting history, Festus was the longest-sighted humpback whale recorded in Southeast Alaska. Glacier Bay biologists work collaboratively with other Alaska and Hawaii researchers to maintain life history records of individual humpback whales.

Anyone with pertinent information who may have seen a sick or injured whale in the area recently is requested to contact the park at 907-697-2230. 

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