Dead Humpback Whale Washes Ashore on Oregon Coast

by | May 28, 2024 | News, Oregon Coast

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Officials are urging the public to avoid a stretch of the north Oregon coast after a dead humpback whale washed ashore Monday morning in Nehalem Bay State Park, just south of Manzanita. The 33-foot-long male whale came on shore about a mile north of the north Nehalem Jetty, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.

The carcass of the sub-adult humpback whale, which is smaller than an adult size, has prompted warnings from the involved agencies to avoid the area to prevent disturbance and ensure safety. Michael Milstein, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, emphasized the importance of keeping pets and the public away from the carcass to allow for an undisturbed examination. "We’re asking people to please stay away from the carcass so it remains undisturbed," Milstein said. "We intend to do an initial exam today to see what we can learn about possible cause of death."

The area where the whale washed ashore is a protected habitat for endangered snowy plovers, making it especially vulnerable to intrusions. Beach access is limited to protect these threatened birds, according to NOAA officials.

Officials are keeping the public at a distance from a dead humpback whale that washed ashore at Nehalem Bay State Park on Monday, May 27, 2024. (Photo: Oregon State Parks)

The dead whale’s cause of death has not yet been determined, though initial examinations will look for signs of a ship strike or entanglements, common causes of death for whales. "The first thing we look for is signs of a ship strike, evidence that it has been impacted or struck in some way like hemorrhaging under the skin," Milstein explained. "The next, probably most common cause of death would be entanglements that we see from time to time. There’s no obvious sign of that in this case."

The discovery of the whale comes as authorities are also investigating a mysterious tar-like substance washing up on Oregon beaches, endangering wildlife. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified the substance as petroleum-based but has not determined whether there is a connection to the dead whale. Beth Quillian, spokesperson for the department, stated that the cause of death might not be known for at least a week.

Dead whales are not uncommon on the Oregon coast, with several instances of beached whales occurring over the past year and a half. In February, a young fin whale washed up on Sunset Beach in Warrenton, and in January 2023, three dead whales, including two gray whales and a 40-foot sperm whale, were found on the coast.

Dead whales are often left to decay on the beach, providing food for eagles and other scavengers. The agencies will decide on the next steps for the whale carcass after their analysis. Located in a more remote part of Nehalem Bay State Park, the dead humpback is a decent walk from the nearest access road, adding to the complexity of the situation.

Authorities continue to monitor the area and plan a more in-depth investigation later in the week. For now, the public is strongly urged to respect the warnings and keep a safe distance from the carcass.


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Written By Tyler James

Tyler James, founder of That Oregon Life, is a true Oregon native whose love for his state runs deep. Since the inception of the blog in 2013, his unbridled passion for outdoor adventures and the natural beauty of Oregon has been the cornerstone of his work. As a father to two beautiful children, Tyler is always in pursuit of new experiences to enrich his family’s life. He curates content that not only reflects his adventures but also encourages others to set out and create precious memories in the majestic landscapes of Oregon. Tyler's vision and guidance are integral to his role as publisher and editor, shaping the blog into a source of inspiration for exploring the wonders of Oregon.

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