Whale’s cause of death investigated

first_imgVENTURA – Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch as biologists began to examine the immense carcass of a blue whale that washed ashore north of here. Although about 3,000 of the world’s 12,000 blue whales are thought to swim off the West Coast of the Americas, they seldom wash ashore. Scientists are eager to do a detailed necropsy of the world’s largest animal. It is not yet clear what killed the whale, which is about 78 feet long and weighs an estimated 100,000 pounds. The whale washed ashore Thursday night near Hobson County Park, a campground off Pacific Coast Highway just north of Ventura. Ventura County officials planned to have the carcass towed through the water on Saturday to a beach with better access for heavy equipment. “There will be some unhappy campers, as they say,” said Ron Van Dyck, a county parks official. Last weekend, the lifeless body of another blue whale was found in Long Beach Harbor. Joe Cordaro, a wildlife biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the carcass might have been hauled there accidentally by a freighter that hit the whale in the Santa Barbara Channel. On Wednesday, another dead blue whale might have been sighted 70 miles from San Diego by a seaman standing watch on the Navy frigate Curtis. It may, however, have been the carcass of the Long Beach whale, which the Coast Guard towed to sea. In Ventura County on Friday, spectators parked their cars to take photos of the dead whale, and an Amtrak train stopped as passengers stared. “Amazing!” said Terry Hewitt, a cook at Cal State Channel Islands. “I was swimming out there yesterday, and if that thing had passed me in the water – well, oh my God!” As many as 200 blue whales have been feeding in the Santa Barbara Channel during their annual summer migration from Mexico and Central America. This one was spotted from the air Tuesday. After a layer of blubber was stripped off, the whale appeared to have a massive bruise on its side. “I have a diagnosis,” said Frances Gulland, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. “It got thwacked on its side. There’s only one thing that could do that – a ship.” That conclusion is tentative until scientists check for broken bones and other signs of trauma.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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