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Dead Oregon Coast Whale May Have Its Home on Beach Near Manzanita

Published 09/22/2016 at 7:21 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo of the humpback at Oswald West State Park courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium

(Manzanita, Oregon) - A 38-foot deceased Humpback whale that washed in and out of north Oregon coast beaches this week seems to have found a permanent home at Short Sands Beach in Oswald West State Park. (Photo of the humpback at Oswald West State Park courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

Or at least as permanent as any beach can get. Its current spot is considered stable enough that Oregon coast officials – including Oregon Parks and Recreations Department (OPRD) – are content to just leave it there. The biggest reason is that there is no way to get heavy equipment down there to bury it or get it out it the first place, so state officials will actually use it to teach about nature.

In fact, interpreters from OPRD will be on that beach this weekend from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to teach visitors about the whale and how it feeds the local environment.

When the full grown humpback washed up initially this weekend, it had a powerful and foul smell because its internal organs had burst out of it. Now, that smell is gone – but there will be some health issues to be aware of when visiting Short Sands while the whale is there.

Crews from the Seaside Aquarium and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network's Portland State University office tried to do a necropsy on the dead whale Thursday, but with the internal organs gone – and the fact the whale has been dead too long – finding the actual cause of death is impossible.

Tiffany Boothe from the aquarium was one of those on scene Thursday.

“We didn't really discover anything,” Boothe said. “With the organs gone there was no way to do a necropsy.”

She said from what inspections they could do it seemed like a healthy whale, and yet there were no signs of trauma. Boothe said the crew did a long crosscut along the corpse and found no signs of hemorrhaging.

When it initially stranded last week, it was discovered the tail was missing. But Seaside Aquarium crews strongly believe that happened postmortem, and that it was a boat that had severed the tail when passing the carcass as it floated along.

Boothe said blubber will go for testing for heavy metals.

Keith Chandler, aquarium manager, said the intense smell came from the organs that spilled out of the carcass when it first landed on Falcon Cove Beach – about two miles north of Short Sands. At that first stranding, Chandler said he could literally smell it one mile away.

Now, the whale will serve as a teaching moment. Chandler said it will likely remain on this beach for a long time, as Short Sands is not as steep or as dynamic in tidal action as Falcon Cove Beach. A good storm or high tide could whisk it away again, however.

OPRD staff will tell the public about how the whale will continue to feed nutrients into the ocean, feeding the crabs, fish and other creatures and plants.

“This is all a part of nature,” Chandler said. “It's all part of the normal natural cycle.”

Still, Chandler warned you should definitely stay away from the creature's remains, as contact by you or your pets could mean contracting disease.

“Keep animals off any dead creature on the beach,” Chandler said. “Always keep a leash on them when you're around a dead thing like this. And yeah: don't touch it. It's really tempting, but don't.”

Short Sands is a hugely popular surfing hotspot on the north Oregon coast as well, and Chandler said you should stay out of water that is near the dead whale. That goes for swimmers and surfers, he said.

“Use common sense,” he said. “Don't swim in areas around the whale.” Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

More of the whale photos from this week, courtesy Seaside Aquarium





Below: Short Sands Beach

 

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