SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (FOX 11 / AP) - Federal officials on Monday collected samples from a beached whale to determine the cause of death, but investigators have not seen any signs that the marine mammal was the victim of a collision with a vessel or got tangled up in any nets.
The 40-foot-long female gray whale washed ashore Sunday afternoon at Lower Testles, a state beach and popular surf spot just south of San Clemente, according to Justin Viezbicke of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The beaching was not considered unusual, Viezbicke said.
"The reality is when you've got 20,000-plus gray whales swimming by our backyard, there will be some that come ashore,'' he said. "This is not something we're viewing as abnormal at this point.''
The condition of the carcass has presented some issues, Viezbicke said.
"Unfortunately, the condition of this carcass is pretty far gone, so a lot of the samples we'd normally get during the necropsy'' aren't available, Viezbicke said. "Over time, we lose information.''
There were no immediate signs of the cause of death, he said.
"We don't know the cause of death, but there was nothing external on the animal that indicated entanglements'' or collisions with a vessel, he said.
State park rangers were working to get the whale carcass to an area landfill, Viezbicke said.
Todd Mansur, a boat captain for Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, told the Orange County Register that he has seen two dead whales off Orange County's shoreline in recent days.
Mansur said he saw the one that washed up at Trestles Sunday, and the other one is expected to wash up at San Clemente State Beach in the next few days. Both whales were estimated to be larger than 40 feet.
Gray whales tend to grow to 50 feet, Viezbicke said.
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