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Whale carcass rolls ashore along Oregon Coast

A KEZI 9 News viewer called our station Thursday morning after finding the carcass.

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 10:56 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 11:48 AM

GOLD BEACH, Ore. - A viewer called KEZI 9 News after finding a whale carcass near Gold Beach.

Lorna Stolle was driving along the Oregon coast Thursday morning when she came across the whale carcass and she snapped a photo of it. She said it was found north of Gold Beach at milepost 320, just south of the Ophir beach access. 

KEZI 9 News reached out to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which said it typically doesn't handle reports of beached whales or carcasses. The agency referred us to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. 

Around 11 a.m. Thursday, we called Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Communications and Research Director Chris Havel. He began looking into the reported carcass to see if his team is investigating. About 10 minutes after our initial call, Havel responded. He revealed that it's a sperm whale carcass, 35 feet long. Havel said the carcass washed up in mid-January, and his team investigated on Jan.17th.

"People who want to see it are welcome to, but please don’t touch it, both for health reasons and because whales, even dead ones, are protected by federal law," Havel said. "If someone wants to go see it from the beach, mind the tide and watch for strong waves and debris."

He said it's not unusual for beachings and carcasses to come ashore with strong onshore winds and waves. Tissue samples were taken, according to Havel, and the Parks and Recreation team decided to allow the whale carcass to naturally decompose above-ground at this point. That could take at least another month because of the cold weather, Havel said. 

Jim Rice, with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, said the carcass was too decomposed to determine a cause of death and there were no signs of external trauma. He said the jaw was collected by ODFW to preserve the teeth for scientific and educational purposes as well as to prevent them from being illegally taken by souvenir hunters.

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