3 dead whales wash up on Oregon coast within a week

WARRENTON, Ore. — A dead whale calf washed ashore at Fort Stevens State Park along the northern Oregon coast Wednesday, according to Seaside Aquarium. This is the second whale to wash up at the park within days, and the third known whale to have washed up along the state’s coastline.

The aquarium said the calf was a 12-foot-long gray whale. It washed ashore near the wreck of the Peter Iredale, approximately 100 yards north of the sperm whale that washed up over the weekend, according to Allysa Casteel with Seaside Aquarium.

Similar to the sperm whale, this baby whale had been dead for a while prior to washing up ashore. Michael Milstein with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the whale is apparently a “stillborn” gray whale. There are no indications that the whale was struck by a ship or that it died from human interaction.

It is likely that this is a case of “failure to thrive,” said Casteel, but a necropsy will be scheduled soon to determine the cause of death. NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network plans to conduct a necropsy, provided the carcass remains accessible and if weather permits, according to Milstein.

Casteel said gray whales are currently migrating south to their birthing and breeding grounds near Baja California. Westerly winds and currents are the reason for these mammals coming ashore close to each other.

The whales at Fort Stevens are not the only cetaceans currently decomposing on Oregon’s beaches. On Jan. 11, a gray whale washed up on the coast of Winchester Bay, near Reedsport, according to Jim Rice, program manager for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Rice, who examined the subadult male late last week, said it appeared the creature had been killed by orcas, who have been known to prey on gray whales.

Gray whales make up nearly half of the whales that wash up on Oregon’s coast, said Jim Rice, program manager of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. In 2022, a total of four gray whales were found washed up in Oregon, according to NOAA.

NOAA is currently interested in gray whales due to them currently experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event (UEM) which is a substantial decline in the population. Milstein said gray whale calf counts have been low.

There’s an ongoing investigation to figure out the causes of the decline and why they are not reproducing as successfully..

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