The locals of a small Canadian town are becoming increasingly worried that the rotting carcass of a beached whale may soon explode and release dangerous bacteria into the air.
The 25m-long blue whale is emitting a powerful stench that is spreading through the 600-strong town of Trout River, Newfoundland, according to local clerk Emily Butler.
She and others are now worried that the build-up of methane gas inside the enormous creature may cause it to burst.
“We have a concern...because I'm not sure with the heat and gases that are trapped inside of this mammal if at some point in time it will explode,” she said.
However, Jack Lawson, a research scientist for Canada’s fisheries department, said that while the risk of the whale exploding is “very small,” people should not approach the whale because of the dangerous bacteria it is likely to be harbouring.
He said: “At some point, the skin of the animal will lose some of its integrity as all of the connective tissue starts to break down.
”Eventually, that gas will seep out. It will just deflate like an old balloon.“
“The risk will come from somebody with a sharp blade who decides they want to cut a hole in the side to see what happens, or if someone is foolish enough to walk on it,” he said.
He added that he is aware of YouTube videos showing a bloated, beached sperm whale in the Faroe Islands, within the Kingdom of Denmark, that suddenly explodes as a scientist uses a large knife to cut open its underside.
“With this animal [in Newfoundland], it's highly unlikely that it's going to happen, especially spontaneously,” he said.
The scientist said large, beached whales can either be buried with heavy equipment or cut up and shipped to a landfill.
Ms Butler asked for help from the province's environment and government services departments as well as the federal fisheries department to remove the carcass.
She said the town council considered asking fishermen to tow the mammal out to sea but concluded such a task would need to be supervised by someone with expertise.
“Nobody has been properly trained in the removal of whale carcasses of this size,” she said.
The whale is one of three beached along Newfoundland's west coast.
Additional reporting by PA