For the seventh time this year, a dead whale has been found on a Northern California beach. This latest is the carcass of a 28-foot long gray whale, which was not fully-grown. This latest dead whale was found between Bodega and Jenner bays along the Sonoma Coast.
Whale Likely Dead for Some Time
According to Damien Jones, a ranger for the California State Parks, the dead whale had probably been deceased for some time based on the amount of decomposition already present on the body. He noted that there were no signs on the body to indicate that it had died from trauma, such as would be evident if the whale had been struck by a ship.
He also noted that the Marine Mammal Center had taken tissue samples of the dead whale in hopes of determining why it died.
Dead Whale One of Many Lately
Northern California beaches have been the site of many other dead whales this whale migration season. Already over the last 5 weeks, there have been four gray dead whales, the carcass of a humpback whale, a sperm whale and an orca have all washed ashore. Reports say that each of the whales died from different causes; however, the number washing ashore is causing worry. It is estimated that for every whale that washes ashore, there are ten that die at sea and are not seen.
A male sperm whale was found on the beach in the city of Pacific on April 14, and then another washed up on May 4. The orca dead whale was found near Fort Bragg April 21, causing scientists to gather there, as a beached killer whale is a rare occurrence. The carcasses of two gray whales were sited on Santa Cruz County beach on April 24, and then another at Waddell Beach. A young dead whale was also found in the Pajaro Dunes area that had apparently died of a killer whale attack as it had killer whale teeth marks and was missing its jaw and tongue.
During May, whales, especially gray whales, make an annual migration from breeding and calving areas in warm Mexican waters to the cooler Alaskan waters for feeding. Most make the 5,000-mile trip past the California coast twice a year, once going to Mexico, then once going back to Alaska.
Although each of the dead whales has been determined to have died for different reasons, researchers are still looking to find a common denominator that can explain the surprising number of whale carcasses washing ashore.