Monday, August 8, 2016

HUMPBACK WHALE STRANDS AND DIES AT WEST SEATTLE BEACH 8-7-16

A 39 foot female Humpback Whale stranded on a West Seattle beach just south of the Fauntleroy Ferry dock on Sunday 8/7/16.  The whale was estimated to be between 1.5 and 3 years old but likely closer to 3.  A necropsy was done but results are not in yet.  The whale was emaciated and had three killer whale bite marks on the lower right jaw which were unlikely to have contributed to the whales death. There was a large population of whale lice on the whale which may have indicated ill health, however whale lice (actually amphipods of the family Cyamidae) are common on many species of whales and are not considered abnormal.  Humpback Whales have one species but some other whales have more than one.  The whale lice feed on the tissue of the whale externally and are often found in large numbers in cuts.  Puget Sound is seeing an increase in Humpback Whale sightings as the population increases.  Over the last 30 years the Humpback population in the North Pacific has increased 4 fold and is now considered healthy.
The whale arrived on the beach about 7:30 am and was alive at the time but died around 11 am.
After performing the necropsy the whale was towed to a secure location and will be sunk in deep water likely 8/8/16.  Washington State Ferries provided the towing boat.
Seal Sitters (part of NOAA stranding network) set up barriers to keep onlookers at a safe distance and provided staff to answer question from the public that visited the beach and lined the walkway on the ferry dock.  NOAA, WDFW, and Cascadia Reasearch Coop staff conducted the necropsy with the assistance of Dr.Tag Gornall a private marine mammal veterinarian.  Seattle Police Dept. helped with barriers and crowd control.
While the stranding and death of any whale in Puget Sound is of concern it should be noted that the current population of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific is healthy....and hopefully will continue to prosper.

Orange on back are whale lice

Keeping the whale cool



Left side eye

Barnacles

Eye and whale lice

Whale lice (C. bootis)


Researcher

Whale and ferry dock

Barnacles on front edge of flipper

Baleen

10 foot long flipper

Cuts on lower jaw

Cuts on lower jaw and whale lice

Measurments

Whale barnacles (can only live on whale)

Whale lice in wound

Tail flukes

Live whale lice

Blubber (sample taken here)

Preparing to move to overnight location


Washington State Ferries boat

Setting floats on whale


Washington State Ferries tow boat

WSF tow boat

Towing the whale to overnight location

Afternoon sky

Whale lice from Humpback Whale  (Cyamus boopis)

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