Sperm whale beaches near Astoria

Visitors to Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria discovered a dead, beached sperm whale Saturday.

The whale beached just south of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, said Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Photos show a gash in the carcass, suggesting a vessel may have struck the whale, he said.

As of Sunday, it wasn’t clear if the gash caused the whale’s death or happened after the whale was already ill in some way.

Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, said the whale also appeared to be emaciated, suggesting it was having problems eating. Sperm whales are deep ocean inhabitants that show up in shallow waters when they are in trouble, he said.

Milstein said the whale measures 40 feet. Adults can grow up to 40 or 50 feet, depending on sex. He didn’t know whether it was a female or male sperm whale. Pitman, based on pictures that showed the whale’s teeth, estimated it was at least 7 years old.

For safety, officials ask members of the public to stay at least 200 yards away from the whale.

The Oregonian/OregonLive has recorded 16 additional beached whales on the Oregon coast since 2019. All of those have been gray whales.