HALIFAX -- A pilot whale that washed ashore in Nova Scotia could be a species that's rarely seen in northern waters, the Marine Animal Response Team said Saturday.

Andrew Reid, the team's response co-ordinator, said the 2.7-metre juvenile whale washed ashore outside of Dartmouth, N.S., on the province's eastern shore earlier this month.

Reid said after examining the whale, it was determined that it could be a short-finned pilot whale.

Long-finned pilot whales are common off the coast of Nova Scotia, but short-finned pilot whales tend to favour warmer waters.

"They are more of a southern species," said Reid. "They definitely don't tend to range as far north as Nova Scotia, that we're aware of."

The species look similar, but short-fins have some distinguishing features, including a shorter pectoral fin and a different head shape.

"They're fairly difficult to distinguish when they're swimming in the water, so it's possible they might be visiting more than we know. But we haven't had dead animals washing ashore that were of the short-finned variety," said Reid.

He said genetic testing is needed to determine if the animal is a short-finned pilot whale, but a full necropsy will not be conducted.

Reid said the carcass appeared fresh and the whale appeared thin, an indication there was a long-term issue at play such as disease or injury.

Within the last week, there was also an unconfirmed report of at least one other short-finned whale spotted swimming in the Halifax Harbour, said Reid.

He said if they are short-finned pilot whales, it's not known why they were here.

"Typically whales go where the food is. But why all of a sudden we get a couple short-finned pilot whales is anyone's guess," he said.

The skull of the pilot whale that washed ashore will be added to the collection at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.