A 25-foot juvenile gray whale washed up dead on More Mesa Beach Wednesday afternoon, and the 2,200- to 2,500-pound carcass will be hauled back out to sea Saturday. Dealing with the remains of such a large marine mammal is no easy task, said Jan Glick, director of Santa Barbara County Animal Services. “It’s a big problem,” she quipped.
While smaller marine mammals are usually removed or buried under three feet of sand, the whale’s location on a narrow, rocky stretch of beach is inaccessible to large equipment and eliminates those options. So, Glick explained, a boat hired through a towing dispatch company will drag the carcass south of the Channel Islands and let it loose. “I’m looking forward to the phone call that it has reached its final resting spot,” she said.
It’s unclear why the young whale died. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History staff took samples of the remains, and the county reported the finding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dead beached whales are an unusual sight in the county, explained Glick, the last one coming in 2010 on Goleta Beach.
A museum spokesperson advised looky-loos to keep their distance as the remains, which are in a fairly advanced state of decomposition, likely contain bacteria that could be harmful to people.