According to the latest available figures, 996 whales, dolphins and porpoises foundered on Scotland’s shores between 2005 and 2010.
Most of those coming to grief were harbour porpoises, a relatively small marine mammal that can grow up to about two metres in length.
But other casualties have included sperm whales, which are leviathans of the deep, and can be as long as 20m – much longer than a double decker bus.
When these monsters come ashore they pose weighty challenges to the authorities.
In December 2006, a 13m sperm whale washed up on Roseisle beach in Moray.
It cost about £12,000 to have the carcass cut up and disposed of in an incinerator. Moray Council and the Scottish government funded the work…
In Scotland, the work is carried out by SAC through the Scottish government-funded Scottish Marine Strandings Scheme.
The Scottish data also feeds into the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (UK CSIP).
The two organisations are concerned with the strandings of all large marine animals, and not just whales…
Tissue specimens are taken from creatures too large to be examined in a laboratory…
And the causes of death are varied.
The Scottish scheme records porpoise, seals and dolphins dying from starvation following from bacterial pneumonia, eye injuries hampering an animal’s ability to hunt and also deaths caused by attacks from other marine life.
Lots of anecdotal info in the article – including recognition of just how hard the struggles are by human volunteers trying to free these sea creatures from their inadvertent beaching, what it means to them, the sadness that results when you lose such a battle.