Humpback whale washes ashore Oregon beach. Its death is a mystery, officials say

A bloated and dead humpback whale was spotted floating off the Oregon coast, officials said.

It washed ashore Monday, May 27, at Nehalem Bay State Park and ended up within a protected nesting area for shoreline birds, Oregon State Parks said in a Facebook post.

Now, officials are trying to determine what caused the whale’s death, but they might not know for a week.

Greg and Cheryl Gosser, who live off Manhattan Beach, told KPTV they saw the whale floating in the ocean from their window.

“I looked at it and immediately thought it was a whale,” Greg Gosser told the news outlet. “It was definitely bloated that’s why it was floating so high on the water.”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Michael Milstein confirmed the whale was bloated and had likely died a few days before it was spotted.

It was a young male humpback whale that was about 34 feet long, Milstein said in an email to McClatchy News, which is about half the size of full-grown whale.

Tar washes ashore on beaches

Wildlife officials are also investigating a petroleum substance as it appears on beaches and covers seabirds in Oregon and southern Washington.

In Oregon, oiled birds and tar have been discovered in Manzanita, Lincoln City and in Cannon Beach/Haystack Rock area. They were also found in the Long Beach Peninsula in southern Washington.

Manzanita is less than a mile north of Nehalem Bay State Park where the dead whale washed ashore.

However, Milstein said the whale was found outside of the area affected by tar.

“We have no reason to think there is a connection to the tar washing ashore,” he said in an email. “There were no obvious signs from the carcass that there is any connection.”

But tissue samples were taken from the mammal so officials will know for sure what health problems or contaminants caused its death, Milstein said.

A larger team will also do a necropsy on the whale later this week to get more information, he said.

A patch of tar was found in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Officials are working to find out why tar is washing ashore Pacific Northwest coastlines.
A patch of tar was found in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Officials are working to find out why tar is washing ashore Pacific Northwest coastlines.

Protected nesting area

Some beaches in Oregon are protected nesting grounds for the western snowy plover, a small shoreline bird that has been federally listed as threatened, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The dead whale washed ashore within a snowy plover management area.

“This means there is no access to the Nehalem Spit starting just south of the day use area to just north of the jetty. Pedestrians must stay on wet hard packed sand and pets and bikes are not allowed,” said Stephanie Knowlton, a spokesperson for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Visitors should watch out for signs that let people know when they are in a snowy plover management area.

It’s currently nesting season, which runs from March 15 through Sep. 15.

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