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UPDATE: Baby Whale on Oregon Coast Did Not Make High Tide, Is Euthanized

Published 08/15/2019 at 4:33 AM PDT - Updated 08/15/2019 at 2:03 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Baby Whale, Still Alive, Strands on Oregon Coast - Did Not Make High Tide

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UPDATE: Sadly, after about 24 hours of hard work on the part of volunteers and Oregon coast officials, the 20-foot juvenile humpback whale that stranded in the Bayshore area of Waldport Wednesday was euthanized. It was the only humane thing to do, considering its suffering on the beach.

Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) communications director Chris Havel said it was administered lethal injection about noon on Thursday. The baby whale could not make it out to sea during high tides: the whale managed to swim free briefly before stranding itself again.

Brittany Blades, Oregon Coast Aquarium Curator of Mammals stayed overnight to monitor the whale. “The whale exerted a lot of effort to swim past the sandbar to deep enough water. Unfortunately every time the whale oriented itself toward the ocean, it would get pushed broadsided to the waves and come closer to shore,” said Blades. “As the night went on, the whale stranded further on shore due to the strong waves and extremely high tide.”

Stranding specialists on the team consulted with colleagues nationwide and determined euthanizing it was the only humane option. The team also considered trying to move the animal closer to the water or give high tides another chance, but neither alternative was deemed feasible. “Due to the size of the whale and amount of time spent stranded on land, it is likely that the internal organs suffered irreparable damage that is not externally apparent,” said Blades.

According to Oregon Coast Aquarium, digging a trench would not have been possible for a number of reasons, including the wide sand bar between the whale and the deeper ocean - and that dragging it along a trench would've injured the whale much more.

After a necropsy to gather important data on whale biology, a state park contractor will bury it on the beach near the site of the final stranding.

--------------- Originial Story

Early on Wednesday, beachgoers made a heartbreaking discovery: a baby whale was stranded on a central Oregon coast beach, still alive. Found in the Bayshore district of Waldport, officials immediately began telling the public to stay away from the creature, which had come in on a high tide. Witnesses report it tried to get out at high tide at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, but it struggled and apparently headed back towards the beach. (All photos courtesy Kerry Terrel).

As of early morning Thursday, the whale did not make it out on the high tide that happened at 1 a.m. as officials hoped.

All day Wednesday, officials from the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, along with a growing army of volunteers, gathered around the 20-foot Humpback juvenile to keep it wet. One video posted on a local whale watch Facebook group showed a giant blanket draped over the whale, and in it you could hear the whale struggling to breath.

Officials and volunteers updated various social media pages during the day, and all said the chances were not good it would make it through the day. While keeping the creature covered in sea water, officials hoped another high tide at 1 a.m. would result in the juvenile making its way out to sea again. It did not make it out.

Now, state officials will be looking at other options to get it back out into the ocean. Next high tide is at 2 p.m.

A volunteer with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network from Newport’s Hatfield told Oregon Coast Beach Connection she did not believe the chances for survival were good.

A heartbreaking decision now looms: if the baby does not make it out it could be euthanized. Officials said this would be more humane as it has been suffering badly throughout its time on the beach. There has been no decision on this and apparently crews are still trying to make it comfortable as of 6 a.m.

The whale is as young as 5 months old, the volunteer said. Trying to roll it out with the help of a crowd is too dangerous as the fins could easily injure someone.

Officials said the weight of its organs outside the water will wind up injuring the creature.

Mate told YachatsNews.com that even if the whale made it off the beach, there was a good probability it would wind up stranding on yet another beach.

At around 10 p.m. Oregon coast whale expert Carrie Newell reported on her Facebook page that she had just left the scene. She also noted that in spite of warnings from Oregon officials, biologists arrived on the beach to find a woman taking pictures of her son standing on top of the whale.

This is a federal offense. It is unknown if they were reported to authorities. More photos by Kerry Terrel below.

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