Unusual mortality of bowhead whales of the Eastern Canada-West Greenland population in Nunavut, Canada in autumn 2020
Steven H. Ferguson, Brent G. Young, Gregory W. Thiemann, Jeff W. Higdon, Stephen Raverty, Magali Houde
Between 1 October 2020 and 14 April 2021, 11 bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) were discovered dead onshore in the Gulf of Boothia, near the community of Kugaaruk, Nunavut Canada. Carcasses were attended by local Inuit from the community with assistance from the Kurtairojuark Hunters and Trapper Association and tissue samples from eight whales were collected between October-November 2020 to investigate potential causes and extent of mortalities. Given the condition of the carcasses and the inability to travel to perform a necropsy, a final determination of a cause of death may be unlikely. Possible causes for these mortalities include starvation (poor body condition), unusual weather events, harmful algal blooms, infectious disease, anthropogenic activities such as contaminants, and killer whale (Orcinus orca) predation.