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    LBReport Readers Say -- And Feds Confirm -- It Was A Deceased Baby Whale That Washed Ashore At Bixby Beach

    (Mar. 26, 2007) -- Multiple readers told us within hours -- and on Monday a federal agency confirmed -- that a deceased baby whale had washed ashore Mar. 23 at Bixby Beach just south of Bixby Park near the main lifeguard building.

    Photo credit: Don Varner

    Cropped/sharpened by
    Original photo by Don Varner
    Joe Cordaro, Wildlife Biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service said that based on preliminary information, and the cell phone photo posted on, it appears to have been a baby Gray Whale.

    The baby whale appears to have been dead for a long time, perhaps as long as a month, biologist Cordaro said.

    We're glad to have the confirmation of the Nat'l Marine Fisheries Service, which is a branch of the federal Nat'l Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. And yes, readers -- including internet savvy cellphone photog Don Varner -- were right. Here's what they told us within a few hours:

  • Photog Varner: When we returned home, we looked on the internet for pictures. The creature most closely resembled a baby whale because of its very large mouth and tongue, and lack of fins on the top or bottom.

  • JJ, ELB: I can confirm that the body of a young whale, mostly likely a grey whale, washed onshore just west of the Junipero Beach Parking lot. I saw it [Friday night Mar. 23] at about 11:30 p.m....I was able to see all of its features which left no doubt in my mind that it was a whale. I can't estimate how old it was, but it appeared to be between 10-15 feet in length. Usually, deceased marine life such as whales, dolphins and sea lions that washes ashore will be buried in the sand near the surfline. Last week, there was a deceased dolphin that washed ashore near the belmont pier; I don't know if there was a connection.

  • HB, ELB: Although I'm no expert, my best guess is that it's a gray whale, since those are common this time of year. [Cites us to a website with info, plus a photo]

  • AC, ELB: [T]here should be someone who could help at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History [smart; why didn't we think of that?]. Also, the Aquarium should be another source of help. [We checked the Aquarium website, which has a terrific animal database; sadly, its Gray Whale link didn't work for us.]

  • D, LB: It appears to be a baby gray whale. This is the time of season where they head north to feed during summer months. It's possible that it was an attack by sharks which often happens. Sharks will herd the mother, ssentially drawing attention away from the baby, then another group of sharks will attack.

  • SV, LB: [Cites an animal expert] who said it looked like a baby Belen whale, but but couldn't be sure since the pictures didn't show a whole lot of the body. What a sad thing to happen to a baby.

    Good work; thank you one and all.

    We asked federal biologist Cordaro if baby whales have washed ashore before. Yes, he said. Gray whales start their migration by swimming south from arctic Alaska to Baja to give birth and breed; they then head back to Alaska. The baby died in transit and yes, this happens every year.

    So why the yellow tape (reported by our reader) to keep people away? Two reasons. First. safety...because the remains probably weighed close to 2,000 pounds and a wave could send it into some ultra-curious but incautious onlooker, Mr. Cordaro indicated.

    And then there's federal law: the Marine Mammal Protection Action makes it illegal to obtain any protected marine species without a permit...and that includes parts of dead animals.

    How old was the baby whale? Hard to tell, perhaps less than a month old, biologist Cordaro estimated.

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