Juvenile Gray Whale Dies on Manila Beach

At 5:45 pm the phone rang at our Bayside clinic. A small whale had just beached in Manila. We typically receive calls all day long about wildlife in trouble, but a whale beaching is not exactly ordinary. Laura Corsiglia, co-director at Bird Ally X, headed to the site to gather information and make photographs.

Fortunately our area is rich in wildlife professionals, in no small measure due to the presence of the nationally recognized wildlife program at Humboldt State University. Neither BAX or the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center are equipped to treat any marine mammals, so we then notified North Coast Marine Mammal Center’s hotline (951-4722) and we contacted Dawn Goley, professor of zoology at HSU and Stranding coordinator of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Sadly, the whale, a juvenile about 10 meters in length, was already deceased. While Ms. Corsiglia documented the process, Professor Goley along with some of her students, and members of the NCMMC stranding team took samples and performed a field examination of the whale’s body.

Multiple scars were seen, showing evidence of entanglement in derelict fishing gear or ropes.

Wrecked on the shore, the whale is very impressive, beautiful, elegant and graceful, even though stranded and to roam the seas no more forever.

Coming directly on the heels of another stranding on Centerville Beach, about 30 miles south and with the reports of a massive krill die-off along the Northern California/Southern Oregon coast – this whale’s death reminds us that the ocean we love, and in many ways take for granted, is experiencing very hard times.

While the problems facing our world seem insurmountable, we must act as if they are not. We must begin now and everyday to repair our relationship with the earth who sustains us and gives us our life. We must do what we can to help the ocean, the rivers – the waters of life and our only hope for survival – we must do what we can to help them heal. Please, even a small act, such as picking up discarded fishing line, or any trashy debris, is an act in the right direction. Let’s not wait for Earth Day, or Ocean Clean-up Day – the whole natural world is waiting for us to rejoin them.
(all photos: Laura Corsiglia/ Bird Ally X)

Linda Stockton of the North Coast Marine Mammal Center

Backlit, the whiskers of this sea mammal are easy to admire.

Samples of the dead whale’s flesh are taken for study.

Scars around the tail show more evidence of entanglement.

Scars in the corners of the whale’s mouth are also likely from entanglement in derelict rope.

Professor Dawn Goley, HSU, measures wounds likely cause by derelict gear.