CAMANO ISLAND, Wash. — Wildlife officials responded to an adult gray whale that was found dead on the west side of Camano Island.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA) West Coast Region posted photos of the 39-foot-long whale on Facebook Friday saying a necropsy would be performed on the animal.
The nonprofit Cascadia Research Collective examined the whale, which was found on the beach last week, and said the whale "exhibited signs of malnutrition, which was likely a significant factor to its mortality.”
The gray whale will stay on the beach “for land-based natural decomposition” so nutrients can be returned to the marine ecosystem, according to NOAA.
The Cascadia Research Collective said the whale is not part of the group of Pacific gray whales known as the “Sounders,” but it “may have been a hungry whale that broke from the northbound migration searching for food.”
The Sounders represent about a dozen individual whales that are part of the larger population of Eastern North Pacific gray whales, according to Cascadia Research Collective. They usually feed in North Puget Sound waters for two to three months each spring and then continue north to the Bering and Chukchi seas for summer feeding.
This is the third gray whale stranding in Washington state so far in 2022.
Since 2019, gray whales along the West Coast and Alaska have been experiencing an “unusual mortality event.” Since then, more and more of the animals have been getting stranded and dying. That includes a 42-foot-long gray whale that washed ashore in Everett in 2019.
According to NOAA data, there have been 259 gray whale strandings in the United States since 2019. Another 251 occurred along Mexico and another 21 in Canada during the same time period. Researchers are still trying to figure out what’s behind the deaths.
Anyone who spots a stranded or floating whale on the West Coast can make a report by calling the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114.
All marine mammals are federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.