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Dead gray whale calf washed along Seacliff coast, cause of death under investigation

By Brisa Colón

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    APTOS, California (KSBW) — A gray whale calf was discovered Monday evening at Seacliff State Beach, and the cause of death is being investigated. Experts say the whale is less than a year old and is nearly 25 feet long.

The grey whale calf has traveled about a mile from where it was first discovered, and now its dead body is just flopping along the Rio Del Mar Esplanade.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s common, but it does happen. We had one down in a similar location about three years ago, so it does happen,” said Gabe Mckenna, CA State Parks.

“We’ve been kind of keeping an eye on what’s been happening with gray whales because so many have been washing up along the shoreline, and it could be due to will ship strikes. It could be due to a number of reasons,” said Karen Grimmer, NOAA resource protection coordinator.

Grimmer says the age of the whale is especially concerning as gray whales are an indicator of healthy ecosystems. NOAA Fisheries issued something called an Unusual Mortality Event for the species back in 2019, because there have been concerning death trends.

“It really raises the bar for us to figure out what’s going on because gray wheels are such sentient beings,” Grimmer said.

Its slowly decomposing body was being thrown around by the water, leading some to believe it was still alive.

“We saw fin flopping around and we wanted to get a closer one, so then we walked over here to see what was going on, we were hoping it was alive,” said James Lefavor, Santa Cruz resident.

“Sad little baby whale is starving itself. It is really sad to see it in the ocean out there,” said Sally Wilson, Santa Cruz resident.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is a volunteer group coordinated by NOAA and UC Santa Cruz, plans to do a necropsy on the whale’s body once they can bring it safely to land. Results could take weeks or even months to uncover the cause of death.

While the whale remains in the water, people are asked to stay out of the water as the dead body could bring sharks.

The rule of staying at least 50 feet away from a marine animal still applies to animals that are dead, so if you plan to go see it, you must maintain a safe distance.

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