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Monday, May 16, 2016

Possible clues

When I arrived at work this morning, I heard that Orcas had been spotted off Bodega Head over the weekend!  Then I heard that someone had filmed Orcas attacking a young Gray Whale offshore of Carmet (just north of Bodega Bay) on Saturday.  Then the phone rang, with a report that a juvenile Gray Whale had washed up dead on the north end of Salmon Creek Beach this morning.

Here's the Gray Whale in the surf zone.  It was ~20-25 feet long:

We don't know the cause of death yet, or if this is the same whale that the Orcas attacked.  

Although I'm not an expert at all, I scanned for possible clues and noticed a few.  Below I'll show a couple of close-ups. 

(If you're not comfortable thinking about how this whale might have died, you might want to skip the rest of the pictures below.)

Here's one view of the throat pleats:

I'm sure you noticed those jagged rake marks.  Could they be from the teeth of an Orca?  (Or a shark?) 

Next, a view of the tailstock (just before the flukes):

If you look closely, you'll see additional rake marks along the tops of the "knuckles."

The Marine Mammal Center and the California Academy of Sciences hope to take a closer look at this whale.  If I learn any more about a possible cause of death, I'll post an update.
P.S.  For a little more information about Gray Whales, see the post from 1 February 2014 when a juvenile washed ashore a couple of years ago.  And if you're interested in the intriguing barnacles that live on these whales, review the post from 24 May 2015.

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