Tooth-Marked Gray Whale Found on Oregon Beach, Signs Point to Killer Whale Attack

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A deceased gray whale calf was found on a beach in Bandon, Oregon (Jim Rice, Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network)

This week, the carcass of a gray whale calf, bearing tooth marks across its body, was discovered washed up on an Oregon beach.

Jim Rice, Program Manager of the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, shared with USA TODAY that he was alerted on Tuesday about the 20-foot-long gray whale calf that had come ashore at Tish-A-Tang Beach in Bandon, Oregon.

Bandon, situated in southern Oregon along the Pacific coast, is approximately 140 miles southwest of Eugene.

The calf displayed extensive tooth marks and "significant trauma to the lower jaw and underside of the body," Rice stated, indicating that the whale had recently succumbed to "killer whale predation." Gray whales are massive creatures, reaching lengths of up to 49 feet and tipping the scales at around 90,000 pounds.

They have one of the longest migration routes among mammals, often covering a round trip of 10,000 to 14,000 miles. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that they earned the nickname "devil fish" for their fierce reactions to being harpooned by hunters. Although they were once hunted to the brink of extinction, conservation efforts and whaling bans have helped gray whales achieve protected status.

Their primary diet consists of amphipod crustaceans, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Their chief predators include humans and killer whales. Though they were once widespread across the Northern Hemisphere, gray whales now primarily inhabit the North Pacific Ocean, according to NOAA.