Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 09:40 UK

Whale stranded in loch found dead

Rescuers with whale
Rescuers and experts with the dead whale

A northern bottlenose whale which strayed into a Highlands sea loch has died.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) staff found its body in Loch Eil, near Fort William, on Saturday.

The female was first sighted about three weeks ago. Animal welfare groups had been monitoring the whale, which is a deep water species.

Its carcass was towed ashore to allow the society to begin investigations into the cause of death.

The whales are usually found off the north and west coasts of Scotland.

This unfortunate end may not be surprising given the usual oceanic habitat of this species
Sarah Dolman
WDCS's Sarah Dolman and Nicola Hodgins went to the area on Saturday hoping to find the mammal and to help assess its condition.

Earlier attempts to get near to the whale to examine it had failed as it had swum strongly away from boats.

The WDCS team used a powerful telescope from the shore to scan the water hoping to observe it.

The team eventually spotted the animal floating vertically, beak-up and motionless in the water.

With an SSPCA officer and Maritime and Coastguard Agency officers on board, the WDCS team travelled out to the whale, confirmed that it was dead and then towed it to shore so that it could be fully examined.

A post-mortem examination is expected to be conducted by experts from the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness

Ms Dolman said: "We were upset to find the dead bottlenose whale in Loch Eil.

"This unfortunate end may not be surprising given the usual oceanic habitat of this species and the weeks that she spent in the loch, but only a timely and detailed post-mortem investigation will determine her cause of death.

"There have been a higher than usual number of northern bottlenose whale strandings and shallow water incidents in Iceland in recent months, which raises general questions about the health and any possible human impacts on this species in Atlantic waters. Very little is known about this species."

Fresh sightings of wayward whale
14 Oct 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Watchful eye on lost loch whale
08 Oct 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Beached sperm whale dies in firth
06 Aug 08 |  Highlands and Islands

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