Mystery surrounds bruised and bloody killer whale carcass

Feb 14, 2012

The bruised and bloody carcass of an endangered killer whale washed ashore at Long Beach, Wash., this weekend. An initial necropsy did not pinpoint a cause of death.

The young female orca whale was examined by multiple agencies including Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, the Seaside Aquarium, Portland State University and Cascadia Research Collective. Jesse Huggins of Cascadia Research says the whale died from massive trauma.

"We do not know what caused the trauma, though. It had extensive bruising around the head, around the chest and on the right flank," Huggins says.

Huggins says the injuries don't look like what she'd expect from a ship collision. An attack by other animals is another possibility, but there are no giveaway teeth marks or scars visible. Yet another line of inquiry is whether this whale could have passed near a Canadian naval ship last week during a sonar exercise.

The dead orca has been identified as (L-112) a member of a pod that frequents Puget Sound. That endangered resident population numbers fewer than 88 now.

Second recent death

This is the second killer whale to strand on the Long Beach peninsula in the past three months. The first case was a killer whale calf that stranded north of the Seaview Beach approach on Nov. 14.

The carcass was promptly collected and transported to Portland State University, where thorough necropsy was conducted. A congenital defect was determined to be the cause of death in this case.

On the web:

Cascadia Research Collective. Warning: Graphic Images.