Three dead gray whales washed up on two different Kodiak Island beaches recently.
The strandings happened within the span of a week, said Mandy Migura, Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
The first report came in on June 25, Migura said, when residents spotted a young gray whale lying on Pasagshak Beach.
“It sounded like some of the local residents had been seeing it for a few weeks prior to us receiving a report. And so we were able to work with a local group who is part of our stranding network, and they were able to go out and collect some samples. There is some discussion that the tongue was missing on this young animal. And so, if that is the case, we speculate its cause of death might have been due to a killer whale attack.”
The Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak is partnering with NOAA to assess strandings on Kodiak.
The second stranding came just two days later in the same area, explained Migura.
“We received a second report on June 28 of an adult gray whale that was actually fairly fresh dead, that was also in Pasagshak Bay, in Kodiak, and we were able to get a veterinarian out to conduct a necropsy on this past Saturday,” said Migura.
Then, a third whale washed up just a few days later on a different part of the island, said Migura.
“And on Sunday night, our local network partner sent an email saying that they had received a report of another fresh, dead gray whale near Port Lions. And so on Monday they were going to go out for us and collect some samples”
Migura said three whales washing up in such a short span of time in the same area is concerning, and preliminary results from necropsies should be back soon while more detailed reports will take more time.
Gray whales are on their annual migration with their young from Mexico, where they winter. They are listed under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.
Migura warns that the areas where the whales washed up should be avoided as the carcasses can attract bears.
If you see a stranded whale, NOAA officials ask that you to take photos and call NOAA’s stranding hotline as soon as possible at: 1-877-925-7773.