GEARHART — A gray whale calf washed ashore Monday in Gearhart but drifted back out to sea, leaving only its intestines.
Because of the time of year and its size, the 10-foot-long whale was most likely stillborn, Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium said.
According to Boothe, gray whales migrate past the Oregon Coast on their way to breeding grounds in Mexico.
The whale had been heavily scavenged upon by sharks before washing ashore as a result of what Boothe said was “a lot of local shark activity.”
A 38-foot humpback whale that drifted ashore in Cape Falcon earlier this year was pulled back to sea before researchers could arrive to conduct a necropsy.
The whale eventually landed on the north end of Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park. The cause of that whale’s death was inconclusive.
This week, a similar scene was re-enacted in Gearhart.
A necropsy had been scheduled, but the whale disappeared off the beach.
“And like the humpback that washed ashore at Falcon Cove in September and then washed back out the next day leaving only kidneys behind, the only evidence that this calf had been on Gearhart beach was a small isolated pile of intestines,” Boothe said.
Researchers believe the carcass is heading north, but will be hard to follow while drifting. Since it is not bloated, it may sink instead of float.
Gray whale migration is an approximately 10,000-mile round trip, Boothe said, from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to their birthing and nursery grounds in Mexico.
The fall migration usually takes place from October to February and the spring migration usually takes place from March to July, although sometimes as late as September.
“We did try to secure the animal when it first washed in, but even though it was a very small whale we were still unable to pull it up higher on the beach,” Boothe said.