California State Parks employees recently reported that a young 28-foot grey whale was washed ashore at the Portuguese Beach on the Sonoma Coast, in Sonoma County, Calif. According to authorities, the marine mammal was already dead when it reached the beach because it was in an advanced state of decomposition.
People familiar with the situation couldn’t tell when the body was washed up. They estimate that the incident occurred either on Friday night or early Saturday. A crew from the Marine Mammal Center, a non-for-profit research group primarily focused on rescuing stranded small marine animals such as elephant seals and sea lions, was also present. The researchers took several tissue samples to try and determine the probable cause of death.
Other experts believe that the whale’s death was not caused by a major trauma such as an unfortunate encounter with a ship’s propeller. California State Parks rangers said that removing the dead whale from the beach was a useless task since the tide could pull it into the ocean once more. They also noted that that solution was the most effective because it “let nature take its course.”
However, this is not the common fate of dead whales. A month ago, a killer whale stranded itself and died on the beach of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County. A team of researchers took samples from it and later cut it into pieces to move it off the beach. The operations took about a couple of days.
The remains were eventually buried in a pile of compost, where maggots were expected to speed up decomposition. Researchers plan to recover the skeleton and put it on display in an educational facility.
However, whale experts expect that more cases would occur this month, since May marks the end of the gray whale migration season. The mammals start their 5,000-mile long trip from their breeding waters in Mexico to Alaska every year. Young or newborn whales and their mothers also take part in the journey, so many of them are more exposed to predators or other dangers of the trip.
Over the last month and a half, many other whales were found on California shores. On May 18, authorities found a decomposed gray whale on the beaches of Half Moon Bay. The 40-foot adult whale had signs of major trauma on its humpback, so marine biologists concluded it must have been hit by a ship.
Moreover, on May 4 a 50-foot humpback whale and a 49-foot dead sperm whale were stranded on the Pacifica beach, on May 4 respectively April 14. According to necropsy reports, the humpback was ship stricken, while the sperm whale’s cause of death remained unknown because of the advanced state of decomposition. Authorities’ initial plan was to let nature take its course, but the odor made them change their mind and burry the carcasses.
In late April, two dead gray whales were washed up on a remote beach in the Santa Cruz County. Both of them had marks of predator attacks on their bodies. Both were reportedly killed by killer whales.
Image Source: Press Democrat
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