A sperm whale was found dead on Saturday with open wounds at Fort Stevens State Park in northwestern Oregon.
A 20-year-old male whale was found washed up on Oregon’s northwestern coast after being struck by a ship. It was a 40-foot sperm whale that is listed under the endangered species act. This incident was not unusual, as along with sperm whales humpbacks and gray whales are also frequently found washed up on Oregon’s coast.
However, Michael Milstein, a public affairs officer for the West Coast Regional Office of NOAA Fisheries said “Sperm whales are less common up in the Northwest in the wintertime than they are in the summer, so it’s somewhat unusual to see them here at this time of year.”
The 19th and 20th centuries were not particularly kind to sperm whales, as they were being commercially hunted. Spermaceti, a waxy substance found in their heads, is used in oil lamps, lubricants, and candles. Even though its commercial hunting has been stopped for decades and the last whale hunted was in 1971, sperm whales have still struggled to increase their size.
Members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries agency examined the whale and conducted a necropsy. Milstein further said, “There was hemorrhaging, so that indicates that the animal was alive when it was struck.”
More about sperm whales
To conduct a necropsy, the biologists cut open the whale to take samples of the insides to study the health of the whale. They also took its teeth and jaws, because as per reports the teeth and jaws of sperm whales are in high demand in the black market. So to avoid any mishap the biologists took custody of them.
Liz Slooten, who studied the sperm whale as a professor at the University of Otago and is also a trustee of the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust, said that the whale found in Oregon must have been separated from its social unit.