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Aquarium Asks Help Spotting Distressed Porpoise on N. Oregon Coast

Published 05/13/21 at 4:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Aquarium Asks Help Spotting Distressed Porpoise on N. Oregon Coast

(Gearhart, Oregon) – Seaside Aquarium is asking for the public's help in reporting any sightings of a stranded porpoise on the north Oregon coast – one which they have concerns about. The harbor porpoise may be ill and thus disoriented, but it's also possible the creature has made it safely back into the wild. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

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Tuesday morning, Seaside Aquarium received a call about a stranded harbor porpoise at Sunset Beach at Gearhart. The aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said it was in some amount of distress, and staff attempted to get it back into the surf. However, it kept re-stranding itself, wandering back onto the sands.

“Unable to get the four foot porpoise out past the surf, it was decided that his best chance of survival was to get him into the deeper, calmer waters of the Necanicum River mouth,” Boothe said. “Once in the deeper channel he seemed to swim around quite well but he did come back ashore a few more times.”

Since then, he was last seen Wednesday near the mouth of the river. Now, Boothe and the rest of the crew are hoping for the best, but asking for help in tracking the porpoise.

“We are hoping that he got enough rest in the estuary that he was able to make it back out to the ocean,” she said. “If you do see a harbor porpoise in the Necanicum River, please call us the aquarium. There is also the chance that this guy was suffering from an infection that went to his brain and that in the end he will not make it. If that is the case, while sad, it is important for us to recover him so that we can preform a necropsy to confirm what happened.”

The aquarium number is 503-738-6211. Do not call 911.

Aquarium manager Keith Chandler told Oregon Coast Beach Connection it is possible the creature made it out to sea and has gone miles up or down the coast, but if it's ill enough it may strand itself again, even die out there and then wash up. It is possible it could do so farther south, such as Manzanita, Rockaway Beach - or far north, perhaps into the southern Washington coast.

“Harbor porpoises are the most commonly seen cetacean on the Oregon coast,” Boothe said. “On calm days, harbor porpoises can often be seen feeding in the Seaside Cove. Commonly traveling alone or in pairs, when ocean conditions are 'just right' they can form much larger aggregations of 100 or more.”

They are often mistaken for dolphins when seen swimming offshore, or even when stranding as in this case.

They live in the waters of the Pacific from southern California to Alaska, and they are the smallest cetacean (meaning of the whale family) seen along the Oregon coast.

Seaside Aquarium is part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Among the reasons for the Marine Mammal Network's response to these situations is the scientific exploration of what happens when these creatures wash up and how they died, but also because marine mammals can carry diseases which are transmittable to both humans and animals. It's important to pick the carcasses up off the beaches for public safety. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Below: more porpoise strandings from Seaside Aquarium back in 2013

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