SEASIDE — A 24-foot humpback whale was among four marine mammals that washed ashore last weekend, along a stretch of the Oregon and Washington coastline, according to Keith Chandler, the manager of Seaside Aquarium.
The whale was found on the beach in Seaside on Sunday, a harbor porpoise washed up near Fort Stevens on Saturday and a striped dolphin was found on Cannon Beach on Saturday, Chandler said. Another striped dolphin washed up in Ocean Park, Washington, also on Saturday.
Chandler said the deaths could be in some way connected and all of the mammals were dead before they reached the shore.
"It's quite a wide area, but it's a big ocean," he said. "We had some really heavy surf, so when you see one, you often see more than one."
He explained that the deaths could be disease-related, or another issue. But there were no obvious signs of trauma.
As first reported by The Daily Astorian, a team of marine experts from Portland State University and the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network will conduct a necropsy on Tuesday, to try and determine the whale's cause of death. They will collect samples and take measurements and photos as they study the dead whale. Then, the samples will be sent to PSU for further study.
Chandler said the humpback was fairly small, and looked to be a juvenile, probably not more than a year old. Young whales usually remain close by their mothers at that age, but he said no adult whales have been spotted near Seaside recently.
Gray whales are most common along the Oregon Coast, but it's not rare to see a humpback whale farther offshore, he said.
Last September, a group of humpbacks were spotted feeding in the mouth of the Columbia River. It caused quite a spectacle.
As for the whale that washed up Sunday, Chandler said a city crew will bury it under the sand, once the necropsy is completed on Tuesday or Wednesday.
He added that people who are curious can feel free to come by to take a look. However, he warned not to touch the whale, as it may carry diseases which could potentially spread to humans or pets.
"We have some orange fencing around the whale, to discourage people from going in, and some signs explaining that it may have diseases. We're most concerned about dogs getting close. Hopefully people will make sure their dogs will stay away," he said.