Officials have determined what killed a 40-foot beached sperm whale spotted over the weekend in Fort Stevens State Park.
Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the whale was an adult male, about 20 years old, and generally healthy. Based on evidence of internal bleeding, a team that conducted a necropsy concluded the whale had been struck and killed by a ship.
Sperm whales’ typical lifespan is 70 years, but some may live longer, according to the National Wildlife Federation. The sperm whale is federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
News of beached whales in Oregon is inevitably greeted with jokes about dynamite, in reference to the infamous exploding whale incident of 1970, a bizarre and treasured piece of Oregon history.
When a whale was beached near Florence, Oregon State Park staff tried to dispose of it using dynamite. It didn’t go as planned.
“Nowadays, state parks would never in a million years consider exploding a whale on a beach,” said Jim Rice, stranding program manager for the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, in previous reporting from the Register-Guard.
These days, park staff tend to let nature take its course. But when a big animal is beached on a popular spot, they may opt to have it buried.
Oregon State Parks have not yet shared how this carcass will be disposed of.
For now, NOAA asks beachgoers to stay 100 yards away and keep pets away from the carcass.
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at Tatiana@registerguard.com or 541-521-7512, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.