A juvenile humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) stranded just north of Waldport yesterday morning.
OSU Marine Mammal Institute (MMI) staff and students immediately responded to the scene to assess the situation and keep beachgoers from approaching the whale. The 21 ft. whale did not make it back to the ocean after the mid-day high tide on Wednesday, so Oregon Coast Aquarium staff arrived early afternoon to help MMI staff dig a trench and keep the whale wet until the next high tide at 1 AM on Thursday.
MMI staff and students, Oregon State Park beach rangers and Aquarium staff set up a barrier around the perimeter of the whale with informational signs to prevent beachgoers from approaching. Staff then coordinated two hour shifts to keep watch over the site until 2 AM this morning.
Unfortunately, the whale did not make it back at the 1 AM high tide last night. Tricia Howe, Oregon Coast Aquarium Operations Manager, stayed at the site overnight and saw the whale’s attempt.
“The whale is definitely a fighter. Several times it was facing the ocean and working its way closer, as well as rolling toward the ocean,” Howe said. “However, when it stopped to rest, the powerful waves pushed it back up on the sand. Due to the extremely high tide last night, it is now even closer to the dunes.”
The young humpback whale is currently still alive, and staff placed soaked linen sheets over the animal to keep it cool and moist. Veterinary staff from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Willamette Veterinary Hospital are now on site to perform blood work and assess the next steps.
It is absolutely essential that the public maintain distance from the animal and keep dogs leashed. Federal and state laws prohibit touching, feeding or disturbing marine mammals with up to a $25,000 fine. Keeping your distance is the best thing you can do to help stranded whales while authorized responders take action.
The United States listed humpback whales as endangered in the United States under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. They are distinguished from gray whales by their dark color and long pectoral fins, and individuals can be identified by their unique tail fluke patterns.
To report an injured, stranded, or dead marine mammal, call the Oregon State Police Tipline at 800-452-7888 or the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 541-270-6830.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium creates unique and engaging experiences that connect you to the Oregon Coast and inspire ocean conservation. An accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums institution, this 501(c)3 non-profit organization is ranked as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. Visit us at 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR. aquarium.org, 541-867-3474. Follow us on Facebook, or Twitter for the latest updates.