A dead sperm whale washed ashore in Pacifica, California, which was found Tuesday night. The large whale showed up at Sharp Park State Beach, and scientists conducted a necropsy on the animal Wednesday. The San Jose Mercury News reports that a team of 20 veterinarians, marine biologists, researchers, and student volunteers tried learning how the 50-foot whale died. Early conclusions were made that the whale was an emaciated male that showed signs of trauma.
According to Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman, Laura Sherr, the sperm whale in Pacifica didn’t have any broken bones, but had some hemorrhaging in the muscles. She says there was no evidence of blunt force or a sharp strike from a ship. Squid was found in the whale’s stomach, which revealed that he’d eaten a short time before he died about a week ago. Marine Mammal Center veterinarian, Dr. Caitlin Brown, says the circumstances behind the whale’s death are “concerning.”
“This is a very intriguing investigation because of the solitary nature of this Sperm whale — they don’t naturally beach themselves. And the fact that he’s a top predator and so emaciated is very concerning.”
Tissue samples taken from the sperm whale in Pacifica weren’t fresh enough to be useful in determining how he died. It was revealed that the animal was about 11-feet short of the average 60-foot length an adult male reaches. He was also “multiple tons short of the average 90,000 pounds,” the report stated.
No trash was found in the whale’s stomach, resolving the theory that the whale might have had a digestive problem.
NBC Bay Area reports that a 51-foot sperm whale that washed ashore in Point Reyes in 2008 had over 450 pounds of trash in its stomach, which caused its death.
The report further explains that sperm whales are found year-round in California waters. They reach peak abundance between April and mid-June, and from the end of August to mid-November. They aren’t easy to spot because of the way they dive.
Times Union reports that whales are generally at risk in the waters they’re in. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials have requested that boaters in the San Francisco Bay Area be watchful of whales and keep a distance from them. They migrate into the San Francisco Bay area in “large numbers during the spring and summer.”
Whales — especially Gray whales — have a high risk of colliding with boats and ships. Some travel near shores and may wander into the bay, the NOAA reveals.
Additionally, the administration warns boaters not to approach any whale within 100 yards, block its path, or get between a calf and its mother. No one should approach or touch dead whales on the beach. They should report such finds to marine mammal centers.
[Photo Credit: KPIX 5 News/YouTube screenshot]