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Gray whale found dead in Bellingham Bay remains a mystery to researchers

Researchers take measurements of a dead gray whale found floating in Bellingham Bay on May 10.
Researchers take measurements of a dead gray whale found floating in Bellingham Bay on May 10. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A gray whale found floating in Bellingham Bay last week was an older female that researchers say was not previously sighted in this region.

The whale, a 42-foot female estimated to be 35 years old, was found May 10 and slowly towed to a remote beach the same day by Fish and Wildlife officials. A necropsy performed two days later showed signs of malnutrition, a skin condition and some bits of woody debris but no food in the stomach and intestines.

One of the Fish and Wildlife agents, Taylor Kimball of Ferndale, climbed onto the carcass to tie a weighted rope over the whale’s head and under it, then knotted the rope around its tail so it could be towed, according to a report in the Whidbey News Times.

The examination was conducted by Cascadia Research Collective and the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

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A dead gray whale found floating in Bellingham Bay on May 10 was towed to a remote beach that same day for a necropsy. Cascadia Research Collective Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A group of gray whales known as the Sounders regularly make a detour during their West Coast migration each spring to feed on ghost shrimp around Whidbey and Camano islands. The dead whale was not one previously identified by Cascadia Research, a nonprofit group that studies whale and dolphin populations along the west coast of North America and Hawaii.

Between four and eight gray whales typically die each year in Washington waters, according to John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research. Nearly all of those that die in Washington waters are found to be stragglers from a group of gray whales that migrate along the West Coast each year.

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