PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Government scientists are launching an investigation into an unusually large number of humpback whale deaths from North Carolina to Maine.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries says 41 whales have been stranded in the region in 2016 and so far in 2017.
Officials say 10 of the 20 whales that have been examined so far were killed by collisions with boats. That's far above the average of fewer than two per year, and officials say there's been no spike in boat traffic to explain it.
Humpbacks can grow to 60 feet long. They're popular with whale watchers because of the dramatic way they breach the ocean's surface.
Deborah Fauquier, a veterinary medical officer, says there were also "unusual mortality events" involving humpbacks in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
This story has been corrected to attribute a comment about past mortality events to Deborah Fauquier, a veterinary medical officer with NOAA, instead of Mendy Garron, NOAA's regional stranding coordinator.