RECOVERY AND EXAMINATION OF PUGET SOUND GRAY WHALE
The long and tragic saga of an injured and now dead gray whale that has been in Puget Sound for almost a month has almost come to an end with the completion of the necropsy and exam on 12 May 2016. Tracking, evaluation, and now examination of this whale has involved the help of numerous members of the NW Marine Mammal Stranding Network as well as cooperating state and federal agencies. The whale was first sighted alive in late April in central Puget Sound having difficulty swimming and diving apparently as a result of an injury or illness that had trapped gases in the upper part of its body. Two efforts were conducted in early May to examine the animal and determined there was no entanglement or obvious external cause of the condition that could be easily resolved. It apparently died around 7-8 May though then proved difficult to locate and track as it drifted with strong currents in the central Puget Sound. Dedicated efforts were begun on 10 May to locate the carcass with Cascadia and WDFW conducting searches and on the morning of 11 May the animal was located and towed with the help of Washington DNR to a spot on Navy land at Indian Island that the US Navy generously allowed for examination.
The necropsy was conducted on 12 May 2016 by Cascadia Research with assistance from the Navy, NOAA, WDFW, and the Pt Townsend Marine Science Center (who hopes to salvage the skeleton). Results were as follows:
Whale and Cascadia and Washington DNR vessels preparing for start of tow on 11 May 2016 (Photo S. Jeffries, WDFW).
Examination and necropsy underway on 12 May 2016 (Photos from Cascadia Research)