Whale carcass washes up underneath busy Seattle ferry dock

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Crews tow the carcass of a deceased gray whale in Elliot Bay after it was discovered under the Colman Ferry dock in Seattle, Washington

Crews tow the carcass of a deceased gray whale in Elliot Bay after it was discovered under the Colman Ferry dock in Seattle, Washington January 22, 2015. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A dead gray whale floated underneath a busy commuter ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, sending a putrid odor onto the dock on Thursday and diverting some passenger ferries to another slip before it was moved to a nearby pier, an official said.

Transportation officials had wanted to move the carcass away from the ferry terminal before the busy evening rush hour.

"It's the smell," said Susan Harris, a spokeswoman with Washington State Ferries. "More than anything, it's upsetting for people to see."

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would soon move the body again to a more remote pier to perform a necropsy and determine cause of death, she said.

The whale's body, discovered late on Wednesday, was estimated at between 25 and 35 feet (7.6 and 10.6 meters) long and apparently drifted in from open waters, lodging under the busy Colman Dock in Seattle.

There has been no impact on ferry service, used by thousands of commuters each day to reach jobs in Seattle.

Some ferries to and from upscale Bainbridge Island were diverted to a different slip after the whale was discovered, officials said.

The gray whale gets its name from its mottled gray skin, according to local whale research group, the Orca Network.

The whales live in the Pacific Ocean, traveling from Baja to the Pacific Northwest, and generally arrive in the Washington state area in late winter or early spring, the group said.

The population is protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, and because of their migration pattern along the busy West Coast, gray whales are vulnerable to collisions with boats, entanglement in fishing gear and pollution, NOAA said.

Gray whales were removed from the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1994 after it was determined their once dwindling population had recovered to near its original size, NOAA said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)