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Dead Harbor Porpoise Found on Duck Island Beach

A protected species and rare sight in Long Island Sound, the animal may have died after human interaction, says expert.

The carcass of a rare Harbor Porpoise was found washed up in the Duck Island Wetlands of Asharoken on Feb. 28.

The 3.5 foot long animal was a juvenile and showed signs of human interaction that may have contributed to its death, according to Kim Durham, Rescue Program Director at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

"There wasn't much left of the carcass and all the internal organs were gone by the time we got to it," she said. "But the body showed suspect markings that might have been made with a straight edge or mechanical a prop. The animal looked healthy otherwise."

Harbor Porpoises are federally protected under the Marine Mamal Protection Act and listed as a species of concern within New York State. Normally found in coastal waters, their numbers have decreased greatly over the past decade. It's been years since the last sighting in Long Island Sound.

"It is unusual," said Durham. "We don't get a lot of strandeds out that way."

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica contacted The Riverhead Foundation upon recieving a report that the animal had washed up on a private beach.

"This is the second Harbor Porpoise I have seen in Asharoken," he said, "the other had gotten trapped in Carter's Bight several years ago."

The Riverhead Foundation is the only organization in New York federally authorized to handle sea mammal rescues. Sea mammal sightings, or reports of sick, injured, dead, or stranded animals may be reported to the organization's hotline at 631-369-9829.

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