Preliminary results of gray whale examination 23 Jan 2013 Manchester, WA

 Conducted by WDFW and Cascadia Research

 A juvenile 29 foot male gray whale that was found dead at the Bremerton Navy shipyard late on Saturday 19 January and an examination conducted by WDFW and Cascadia Research on 23 January 2013 with the assistance of the Navy and NOAA. Preliminary results of the examination included the following:

  1. The whale was in poor nutritional condition indicated by relatively thin and dry blubber layer with only low amounts of oil. This is the opposite of what should be expected this time of year when animals should be fat from feeding through the spring, summer, and fall.

  2. Pigment and scars on the back and the fluke confirmed this was the same animal that had been seen for several days in and around the Foss Waterway in Tacoma (around 15 January).

  3. There were indications of a past relatively severe killer whale attack based on healed teeth rake marks at multiple locations including the flukes (distal ends gone), pectoral flippers, and both dorsal and ventral side of posterior portions of the body.

  4. The animal had been attempting to feed along the bottom based on recovery of several gallons of stomach contents that did not appear to contain edible prey but instead had woody debris, sticks, bark, and sediment.

  5. Internal organs were relatively fresh and are consistent with the animal dying within the last few days.

  6. The animal appeared to be 2-3 years old and was not reproductively mature.

  7. There were not recent injuries apparent that would have been sufficient to kill the animal, most were more minor scrapes or healed injuries (like the killer whale attack marks).

  8. A wide variety of tissues were sampled for later testing and examination that could provide additional insights into the condition of this animal and other contributing factors to why it ended up in Puget Sound and died.

  9. This is the first dead gray whale recovered in Washington State for 2013. There are typically an average of 6 gray whales that die and strand in Washington each year (3 in 2012 only 1 of which was in Puget Sound).

  10. Late December and January is the time most of the eastern North Pacific gray whale population migrates south past Washington headed down to winter breeding areas in Mexico and this individual is likely one of these that was not in good enough health to complete this migration. Most of these migrate back north in March to May and this is another time period when we commonly see gray whale strandings in Washington waters.

Personnel from WDFW and Cascadia Research conducting gray whale examination on 23 January 2013. Photo courtesy of Cascadia Research