Days after the body of a dead gray whale was found floating in the waters off the Washington State ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, the cause of death of the mammal has been revealed. According to Komo News, the whale died after being struck by the propeller of a large vessel. The cause of death has been ascertained after experts performed a necropsy on the carcass of the whale on Saturday.
The necropsy analysis revealed that the whale had deep gashes on its right side and back. The gashes were deep and extended into the whale’s body cavity. In fact, the propeller blades seem to have sheared off one of its ribs as it hit the animal. Biologists believe that the whale was likely hit by the propeller last week on Monday or Tuesday. The carcass of the gray whale was first seen under the Colman Dock ferry terminal last Wednesday. While Ferry services from the terminal were not affected, people did complain about the foul odor that emanated from the rotting carcass. Officials are now planning to tow the carcass away and sink it in deeper waters and let it decompose naturally.
Meanwhile, biologists have managed to ascertain that the whale happened to be a juvenile female, estimated to be no more than three-years-old. The whale was in good health, a fact made clear by the presence of healthy amounts of oil in its thick blubber, reports KOIN 6. What they are however unsure of is the reason why the whale entered Puget Sound. According to them, most gray whales should have migrated towards the south along the Washington Coast till Baja California, where they remain for a few months. Later, they are known to make a long trip back to Alaska, where they feed.
Officials have also confirmed that the dead whale doe was not an endangered species. Gray whales were removed from the list of endangered species over two decades ago, in 1994. However, the species are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Gray Whales are sole members of the genus Eschrichtius. Adult gray whales are known to reach lengths of up to 14.9 meters (49 ft) with weights in excess of 36 tonnes (40 short tons). The lifespan of these large marine mammals is estimated to be anywhere between 55 and 70 years.
In late 2014, the Inquistr had also reported about the death of a stranded whale in Nicaragua after locals were unable to refloat the animal back to the ocean.
[Image via KOIN 6/ AP Photo]