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Huge sea creature washes up on CA coast in first reported death this year, experts say

In World
April 23, 2024

A massive sea creature drew crowds over the weekend when its carcass washed up on a California beach.

It was the first reported whale death in the San Francisco Bay Area so far this year, according to the Marine Mammal Center.

The center’s partners at the California Academy of Sciences reported the dead whale floating off Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda the evening of Saturday, April 20, the center told McClatchy News in an email.

The carcass became stuck on an offshore sandbar early the next morning, and the team was able to get a closer look and take blubber samples, officials said. It dislodged as the tide came in and has been floating freely since.

Experts estimated the adult female whale was about 40 feet long, officials said. Both organizations are working with local towing services, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard, to tow the massive carcass to Angel Island State Park for a necropsy to figure out what may have killed the mammal.

While gray whale deaths have been up in recent years due to an Unusual Mortality Event in 2019, it isn’t unusual to see a few of them wash up during annual migrations to feeding grounds in March and May, experts said.

“This is the time of year where gray whales are headed back to Alaska from Mexico. So we halfway expect to see a gray whale or two on their transit back. And sometimes they die,” Sue Pemberton with the California Academy of Sciences told ABC7.

The most common causes of death in whales are malnutrition, entanglement and trauma from boat strikes, according to the Center.

Some suspected the dead whale might be the same one that was entangled in fishing nets and buoys over the last two weeks after it popped up again near San Francisco April 9. That gray whale was also on its annual migration north to Alaska, but it’s about 10 feet shorter and smaller than the one that recently washed up, experts said.

Officials had been trying to free the smaller gray whale from its entanglements last week, but it disappeared, McClatchy News previously reported.

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