45-foot-long dead whale washes up on San Francisco beach

SAN FRANCISCO — A 45-foot-long dead whale washed ashore at one of San Francisco’s most popular beaches on Sunday, authorities said.

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A necropsy, or animal autopsy, failed to confirm a cause of death for the gray female whale, The Sacramento Bee reported. The whale was the 14th found in the Bay Area since April, according to the Marine Mammal Center.

This whale was found on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, SFGate reported.

“Gray whales are sentinels for ocean health, so performing these investigations is essential to better understand how human activity and changing environmental trends are impacting this species,” Dr. Pádraig Duignan, the Marine Mammal Center’s director of pathology, told The Bee.

Gray whales usually pass through the San Francisco area during their northern migration to Arctic waters in late March through April, SFGate reported. It is not unusual for some of the whales to die and wash ashore during the spring, according to the website.

The whale found Sunday appeared in the area later than usual, according to SFGate.

“In 2019, when this unusual mortality event began, we had 13 dead gray whales,” spokesperson Giancarlo Rulli told SFGate. “Last year we had five. In an average year, we and our partners at the California Academy of Sciences respond to about five to 10 dead whales of all species in a given year.”

According to the Marine Mammal Center, common causes for whale deaths include “malnutrition, entanglement and trauma from ship strikes.”

Bone fractures on the gray whale’s body suggest it may have been struck by a ship after dying of other causes, KPIX reported.

During the necropsy, scientists determined the whale was a 45-foot adult female in average body condition based on the fat stores and blubber layer, the television station reported. The team also noted the whale was in relatively fresh condition based on the quality of the skin, internal tissues and organs.