WARRENTON, Ore. (KOIN) — Two dead whales have washed ashore at Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton on the northern Oregon Coast just days apart this week, bringing in crowds to see the unusual sight, with many now wondering just how this could happen and what’s next for the decomposing bodies.
The first whale washed ashore at Fort Stevens State Park, near the historic shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, on Saturday, according to officials at the Seaside Aquarium. The 40-foot sperm whale died after being hit by a ship, according to necropsy results completed by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The second dead whale was discovered on Wednesday about 100 yards north of the first dead whale, officials said. The second one, which has been identified as a 12-foot baby gray whale, doesn’t appear to have died from being hit by a ship or other human interaction, according to officials. Although a necropsy will be scheduled soon, experts say it appears to be a case of a whale failing to thrive.
The gray whale “looks like it was probably a stillborn,” Seaside Aquarium’s Keith Chandler said. “It looks a little small. It’s around 13 feet and they’re usually 15 to 17 feet when they’re born.”
Officials say both whales appeared to have died sometime before washing ashore.
How did the decomposing whales get there?
Beachgoers on Thursday flocked to Fort Stevens State Park for the rare sight of two dead whales washed ashore.
“I came to pay my respect to the dead,” Michael Hurley told KOIN 6 News on Thursday.
Gray whales are currently migrating south to their birthing and breeding grounds, Chandler, who is the general manager at the Seaside Aquarium, said.
When it came to the baby gray whale, “a female whale headed south to Baja where they calve their whales and there was something wrong with this one,” he said.
So migration, paired with strong westerly winds and powerful storm waves, brought these amazing mammals ashore.
“It’s a little unusual but not unprecedented. The currents that bring one in … would often bring more than one thing in,” Chandler said. “But to have them both be whales is a little unusual.”
So what’s next for the dead whales at Fort Stevens State Park?
No, there won’t be an explosion.
Officials with the Seaside Aquarium say it could be possible to bury the dead baby whale, but the sperm whale is too large for them to handle and will be up to Oregon State Park officials to handle.
It’s also possible the decomposing whales are left to Mother Nature’s scavengers that will dispose of them.