Highlands & Islands

Dolphins suspected in whale attack off Skye

Pilot whale Image copyright Nikolaus Gruenwald
Image caption The injured whale was found on Tuesday

Marine wildlife experts believe dolphins attacked a young pilot whale which was found stranded on a beach in Skye.

Vets had to put down the badly injured three-year-old female calf, which was discovered on Tuesday at Dunvegan.

Teeth marks were found on the whale's body, flippers and dorsal fin.

The Scottish Marine Animals Stranding Scheme and Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) suspect the calf was attacked by bottlenose dolphins.

HWDT said it was awaiting a final report following a post-mortem examination of the whale.

Dr Conor Ryan, the trust's sightings and strandings officer, said: "If indeed bottlenose dolphins were to blame, this is only the second such case that we are aware of in the UK.

"Pilot whales often strand dead and occasionally alive on our coasts, but rarely with these types of injuries."

'Dark side'

Scotland is home to the world's most northerly resident population of bottlenose dolphins.

On the east coast, they feed and breed the Moray Firth and North Sea.

Charlie Phillips, a Whale and Dolphin Conservation field officer, said the injuries may have been caused while the dolphins and whale were playing, or inflicted in an act of aggression.

He said: "Dolphins and whales do interact in the marine environment and this is part and parcel of their natural behaviour.

"Dolphins are wonderful creatures but people should remember that they are not these fluffy cartoon characters, they have a dark side too."

Mr Phillips said the spacing between the tooth marks on the whale had helped the experts to tell that they had been made by bottlenose dolphins.

Medium-sized gaps indicate bottlenoses, while larger spaces are left by orca and smaller ones by common dolphin.