Dead humpback whale washes ashore on north Oregon coast, prompting warnings


Officials are urging people to avoid a stretch of the north Oregon coast after a dead humpback whale washed ashore Monday morning.

The whale came ashore on the sands of Nehalem Bay State Park, just south of Manzanita, prompting warnings from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

All three agencies issued warnings Monday on posts to social media as well as signs on the beach. The area where the whale washed ashore is also a protected area for endangered snowy plovers, making it especially vulnerable to intrusions.

“We’re asking people to please stay away from the carcass so it remains undisturbed,” Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, said Monday. “We intend to do an initial exam today to see what we can learn about possible cause of death.”

The dead whale arrives as authorities are still busy investigating the source of a mysterious tar-like substance that has been washing up on Oregon beaches and endangering wildlife. On Monday, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the substance has been determined to be petroleum based, but offered no other details, as responders continue to survey beaches in Oregon and Washington.

Department spokesperson Beth Quillian said investigators are aware of the dead whale, but have not determined whether there is any connection to the tar-like substance.

“We’re not going to know a cause of death at least for a week,” Quillian said.

Dead whales are certainly not uncommon on the Oregon coast. Aside from the recent spate of dead gray whales, the ocean beaches have long been a repository for expired marine animals, including sharks, sea lions and all manner of strange fish.

It’s also not unusual to see humpback whales off the Oregon coast this time of year, Milstein said, as the whales are currently migrating north from their breeding grounds in central America, with some passing along the Pacific coast.

Dead whales are often left to decay on the beach, as the carcasses provide food for eagles and other scavengers. The agencies said they will determine what to do with the whale after their analysis. The dead humpback at Nehalem Bay is located in a more remote part of the state park, officials said, a decent walk from the nearest access road.

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