Endangered sperm whale on Oregon beach likely dead for a week

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Jan. 16 (UPI) — Marine biologists believe the 40-foot juvenile sperm whale that washed ashore on an Oregon beach was likely dead for about a week before its body came to rest at Fort Stevens State Park.

Seaside Aquarium posted that the whale had large gashes on its body that are believed to have come from striking a large ship, though it is unclear if the whale was already dead at that time.

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Dozens of onlookers gathered on the beach Monday as scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations performed a necropsy on the carcass.

“It will take them a few weeks to actually analyze the material but at that point we’ll be able to determine the cause of death as well as the health of the animal when it perished,” said Matt Burks of NOAA Fisheries, reported by ABC 2 Portland.

The whale’s body beached near the site of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, which is a landmark in the park.

Seaside Aquarium noted that male sperm whales can grow to as large as 60-feet long and live for about 60 years.

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The whale’s lower jaw was removed on Sunday. This is done to keep the teeth intact for scientific purposes, the aquarium said.

On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard first received reports of a whale on the beach in Fort Stevens State Park. It urged members of the public to remain at least 200 yards away from the body as whales, dolphins, porpoises and other marine life can carry diseases that can be spread to humans and other animals.

Sperm whales have been on the endangered species list since 1970. A 2019 NOAA report on sperm whale populations off the coasts of California and Oregon estimated a minimum population of about 1,270 whales. It is rare to see a sperm whale near Oregon in the winter.