It appears what some are calling the “ever-returning whale” may have found a forever home on Short Sands Beach in Oswald West State Park, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).
By Ann Powers
During interpretative talks last weekend, State Park Ranger Ken Murphy said OPRD plans to leave the 38-foot dead humpback where it is and allow its carcass to feed the surrounding ecosystem.
When a deceased whale washes ashore during peak season, it would usually be buried by the park’s department. But Murphy said because of current cool temperatures and few beach-goers, OPRD plans to leave the humpback to scavengers as it decomposes over the next several weeks.
“The plans right now are to let it take the circle of life approach and let other animals feed on it and let it decay naturally,” he said. “It’s pretty important, especially just prior to winter, for these types of animals to have a food source – the predatory birds, microorganisms, fish and crab and what not.”
In addition, officials said there’s no way to get the necessary heavy equipment down to the area to bury or remove the massive mammal.
The whale’s carcass was first discovered near Falcon Cove Beach Sept. 17, where it stayed for three days. However, high tide washed it out to sea before marine biologists could finish an examination.
And with that exit, the humpback left behind a few organs. Gas that accumulated in the whale as part of decomposition blew the mammal’s stomach and kidney through its mouth and onto the beach.
About 24 hours later, the whale made a comeback just two miles south. OPRD officials said the current location is stable enough that it probably won’t disappear again.
Murphy noted the creature’s internal organs are now all gone and it has been dead too long to determine how it died. From what researchers could observe, he said it’s believed to have been a young, healthy whale and its body showed no signs of trauma.
Officials said humpbacks can grow to 52 feet long, weigh nearly 80,000 pounds, live into their 80s and that they’re very social creatures who like to sing and play.
OPRD encourages visitors to see the body, but they are not allowed to take a sample or touch the carcass. Moreover, spectators should keep their pets away from the whale and always keep an eye on the ocean for safety.