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Despite attempts to save her, whale in Klamath dies

August 16, 2011

whale in Klamath diesGray whale in Klamath River

After approximately 54 days of fascinating scientists and tourists alike, the female gray whale that entered the Klamath River in late June has died. 

Scientists from Humboldt State University reported yesterday afternoon that the whale’s health was quickly deteriorating.  Most noticeably, the whale began to breathe more frequently and appeared to have trouble swimming in an upright manner.

Finally, last night at approximately 7:00 p.m., scientists and a veterinarian watched helplessly as the whale stranded on a sandbar in the river, in about three feet of water, south of the U.S. Highway 101 bridge. Accompanied by scientists from HSU, and members of the Yurok Tribe, the whale passed away at about 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Veterinarians and researchers from The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., have arrived to assist with the necropsy that will be performed on the animal to hopefully gain some insight into what led to the whale’s unusual foray into the freshwater river and what ultimately caused her death. 

The female gray whale and its calf were first observed in the Klamath River on June 24th.  The calf apparently weaned itself and returned to the ocean on July 23 leaving the mother behind.  Attempts to move the adult whale out of the river back to the ocean using water spray, killer whale and gray whale sounds, banging of pipes and other methods were attempted but were unsuccessful. 

If you’d like to learn more about NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program:

Gray Whale in Klamath River, August 11, 2011

whale in Klamath diesGray whale in Klamath River

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Responding to Marine Mammals in Distress

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network relies on the public to report marine mammals in distress.  As requested by NOAA and the Network, people should never approach a stranded or distressed marine mammal, no matter how tempting. Instead, they can report strandings to local authorities who will alert the Stranding Network .

Once the Network receives a report of a stranded marine mammal, a trained “stranding network responder” is sent to the scene. If the animal is alive an authorized veterinarian will quickly assesses the health and condition of the animal.  Based on its condition, the veterinarian determines whether it will be released, taken to an authorized rehabilitation facility, or euthanized.  In many cases, stranded animals are in poor condition and the most humane option to prevent their suffering is to euthanize the animal. If the stranded animal is already dead, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network responder will conduct a necropsy – an animal autopsy –on the beach or in a special necropsy lab to determine the cause.