Baby Whale on Oregon Coast Died of Rope Entanglement
(Seaside, Oregon) – A dead baby Gray whale washed up onto a north Oregon coast beach Friday, surprising visitors and leading northwest media to immediately speculate it had something to do with the spate of dead Grays on the Washington coast.
Instead, a necropsy has since proven what experts initially could tell by sight: it had been caught in rope from crab pots and drowned.
The whale was 27 feet long, and a male about four months old. Staff from Seaside Aquarium responded to it shortly after it was reported, finding it entangled in rope – lying some three miles north of Sunset Beach.
Dr. Debbie Duffield from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s headquarters at Portland State University arrived Saturday morning with her crew of biologists and students to conduct a necropsy. She determined the calf was still of nursing age – which is found by certain aspects of the tongue on a baby whale.
“It was just one of those accidents,” said Keith Chandler, manager of the Seaside Aquarium.
What often worries experts when these kinds of strandings occur is people coming too close to one of these creatures – or their pets. The baby whale hit a stretch of beach extremely popular for clamming, but it also allows driving on the sand – so a large variety of people were milling around.
Chandler said it wasn’t a problem in this case, and people kept their distance.
“There was good clamming, so there were a lot of people there for that,” Chandler said. “It actually turned into a good opportunity to answer questions and educate people about what’s happening.”
He still cautioned the public to stay away from the thing, as it has not been removed from the beach yet. Touching it may get you a disease, and now, after the necropsy, there are internal organs hanging out of it in great abundance.
“It’s essentially rotting flesh,” Chandler said. “It’s cool to check out, but it’s best to be intelligent and use common sense. And keep your pets away too. The last thing you want to do is having your dog rolling around in dead whale and then sitting in the back seat of your car on the way home.”
The other issue still at hand is what to do with the dead whale carcass.
“We’re not sure what we’re going to do yet,” Chandler said. “I’m hoping to find someone to bury it. The other option is let the seagulls and eagles take care of it.”
Part of the problem with disposal is that the whale sits outside of any city boundary, so no city government is available to haul it way or bury it. He said he didn’t believe that either Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department nor Clatsop County authorities would have the resources to deal with it.
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