Photos show a bloody 40-foot sperm whale carcass that washed ashore the Oregon coast in a blow to the endangered species

In this photo provided by Oregon State Parks, a dead sperm whale is seen washed up on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
In this photo provided by Oregon State Parks, a dead sperm whale is seen washed up on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.Oregon State Parks via AP
  • A 40-foot sperm whale carcass washed ashore an Oregon beach this month after being hit by a ship.

  • Sperm whales are considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

  • Their global population was decimated by commercial whaling, which wasn't banned until 1986.

A massive 40-foot sperm whale carcass washed ashore an Oregon beach on Saturday, bloodied and broken in a loss to the endangered species.

The juvenile male was found on a beach in Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, Oregon on Saturday, the Seaside Aquarium said in a Facebook post. Video footage of the whale showed large gashes across its body.

State park staffers removed the whale's lower jaw soon after discovering the animal in order to keep its teeth intact for scientific purposes, the aquarium said.

 

The whale likely died after being struck by a ship at sea and its body floated to shore, experts said.

In this photo provided by NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries employees conduct a necropsy of a dead sperm whale beached on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, two days after it washed ashore.
In this photo provided by NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries employees conduct a necropsy of a dead sperm whale beached on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, two days after it washed ashore.NOAA Fisheries via AP, NOAA Fisheries Permit #24359

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries conducted a standard animal autopsy, known as a necropsy on the whale and determined that the creature was likely dead when it washed ashore.

Michael Milstein, a public affairs officer for the West Coast Regional Office of NOAA Fisheries told media outlets that scientists observed internal bleeding in the whale which indicated it collided with a vessel while at sea.

The necropsy also showed that the male whale was around 20 years old and in good health at the time of its death, Milstein said.

 

This sperm whale's presence along the Oregon coast is somewhat unusual.

In this photo provided by Oregon State Parks, a dead sperm whale is seen washed up on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
In this photo provided by Oregon State Parks, a dead sperm whale is seen washed up on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.Oregon State Parks via AP

Milstein told The Washington Post that sperm whales are less common in the Northwest during the wintertime than compared to the summer.

Scientists believe about 2,000 sperm whales live off the West Coast, Milstein told the outlet.

Healthy male sperm whales can grow up to 60 feet and weigh over 20 tons.

In this photo provided by Oregon State Parks, a dead sperm whale is seen washed up on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
In this photo provided by Oregon State Parks, a dead sperm whale is seen washed up on the Oregon coast near Fort Stevens State Park in Clatsop County, Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.Oregon State Parks via AP

The Seaside Aquarium said male members of the species can live up to 60 years — an extra 40 on top of this beached whale's mere 20 years.

Male sperm whales typically mature around the age of 50 after reaching an approximate average length of 52 feet, according to the aquarium.

The massive mammals are the largest of the toothed whales and usually feed on other water species, such as squid, sharks, skates, and fish.

 

 

Sperm whales are considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In this image taken from an Italian coast guard video a whale trapped in a fishnet in the waters near the Eolian islands, in the Mediterranean Sea in 2020.
In this image taken from an Italian coast guard video a whale trapped in a fishnet in the waters near the Eolian islands, in the Mediterranean Sea in 2020.Italian Coast Guard via AP

Scientists estimate there are about 850,000 sperm whales left in the world after commercial whaling during the 19th and 20th centuries put a massive dent in the species' population numbers.

Sperm whales were among the most coveted targets of the commercial whaling industry, according to NOAA, and excessive hunting nearly decimated the species. A recent study suggested there were close to 2 million sperm whales in the world before the start of large-scale commercial whaling.

"The last sperm whale hunted and killed off the West Coast was 1971. It really wasn't that long ago," Milstein told The Post.

The International Whaling Commission put a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, which helped whale species bounce back in numbers. But sperm whales have struggled to recover as quickly as other species, according to Milstein, though they are "on the upswing," he told the outlet.

Conservationists believe sperm whale numbers are slowly increasing.

Despite their massive size, sperm whales face a variety of threats in the waters.

Rescuers sprinkle water on a sperm whale stranded on a beach on April 19, 2022 in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province of China.
Rescuers sprinkle water on a sperm whale stranded on a beach on April 19, 2022 in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province of China.Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Vessel strikes, like the one that killed the juvenile male discovered in Oregon this month, are common culprits in injuries or deaths to sperm whales, according to NOAA.

The species is at greater risk of dangerous vessel impacts because sperm whales spend long periods of time "rafting" at the ocean's surface between their deep dives, the agency said.

The animals are also at risk of becoming entangled in fishing gear; sensitive to underwater noise pollution; prone to ingesting marine debris; and, like all animals, impacted by climate change, according to the organization.

Beached whales and marine life carcasses washed ashore often draw large crowds of people.

An Indonesian puts an offering on a stranded sperm whale for praying, in Bali, Indonesia Monday, March 14, 2016.
An Indonesian puts an offering on a stranded sperm whale for praying, in Bali, Indonesia Monday, March 14, 2016.AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati

The spectacle of massive whales on the shore is known to bring scores of people to the beach to observe the creature, dead or alive.

There are noted incidents in which crowds worked together to free or save struggling beached whales. Other times, a beach burial can draw mournful observers.

But whale carcasses can also pose a risk to human sightseers. Methane gas-buildup in a dead whale's gut as the creature decomposes can result in spontaneous explosions in warmer climates.

Staff at the Seaside Aquarium warned people not to touch the whale carcass discovered this month, noting that any whale, dolphin, porpoise, or pinniped can spread potential diseases to humans and pets.

Oregon state officials said this week that they will move the juvenile male's carcass further up the beach in order to allow it to decompose naturally "while giving birds and animals a chance to get nutrients."

"Eventually, the carcass will be buried if needed," Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Stefanie Knowlton told The Register-Guard.

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