A dead juvenile gray whale that washed ashore in Half Moon Bay in Westport will remain there untroubled by the hands of man as nature takes its course.
The whale, a young male about one to two years old, may have been killed by a vessel strike, but there’s not enough evidence to conclusively identify a cause of death, said a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration public affairs officer.
“Oftentimes the hope is that it’ll wash back out during a high tide event,” said Matt Burk, a NOAA spokesperson. “It’ll be on our radar until it’s taken care of it.”
The whale, which is on state parks land, is inaccessible to the kind of equipment parks personnel would need to remove it, said Emily Masseth, a communications consultant with Washington State Parks.
“We ask that people do not disturb the carcass or take any bones or body parts,” Masseth said. “We would like the people and pets to stay away from the whale.”
Decomposing carcasses provide a natural food source for the ecosystem, according to a NOAA guide on marine mammal carcasses. Care should be taken not to get close to the carcass, Burk said, especially pets, as disease could spread through contact or ingestion of the remains.
“We want people to keep their distance,” Burk said. “The main thing is people, but also pets. Don’t let your pets get near it.”
The carcass is protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and taking any remains from it, including flesh or bones, is a federal crime.
“It’s a sad incident,” Burk said. “But it’s a natural course.”