The North Atlantic right whale scientists shot with sedatives last month so they could untangle it from fishing ropes has been found dead off the coast of Florida, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Wildlife experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are still conducting tests to determine 2-year-old female’s cause of death, but initial results from a necropsy on Thursday indicate that the whale had rope deeply lodged in its mouth. This probably prevented it from feeding, scientists say.
NOAA spokeswoman Karrie Carnes says it appears that, unable to eat, the malnourished whale was easy prey for sharks.
Scientists found the whale wrapped in 50 feet of fishing rope last month off the coast of Florida.
Following the whale in a small vessel, the team shot it with sedatives from a dart gun so they could pull closer to untangle the ropes and attach a satellite monitor.
It was only the second time that drugging has been used on a free-swimming whale.
Carnes says the sedatives do not appear to have played a part in the whale’s death.