Three dead gray whales wash up on Kodiak Island beaches in one week

Whale carcass. (Photo courtesy Kathy Burek, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services)
Whale carcass. (Photo courtesy Kathy Burek, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services)

Three dead gray whales washed up on two different Kodiak Island beaches recently.

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The strandings happened within the span of a week, said Mandy Migura, Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding coordinator with NOAA.

Three whales washing up in such a short span of time in the same area is concerning, Migura said. Preliminary results from necropsies should be back soon while more detailed reports will take more time.

Gray whales are on their annual migration with their young from Mexico, where they winter. They are listed under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

Residents first reported June 25 a young gray whale lying on Pasagshak Beach, Migura said.

“It sounded like some of the local residents had been seeing it for a few weeks prior to us receiving a report. And so we were able to work with a local group who is part of our stranding network, and they were able to go out and collect some samples. There is some discussion that the tongue was missing on this young animal. And so, if that is the case, we speculate its cause of death might have been due to a killer whale attack.”

The Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak will partner with NOAA to assess strandings on Kodiak.

The second stranding came just two days later in the same area.

“We received a second report on June 28 of an adult gray whale that was actually fairly fresh dead, that was also in Pasagshak Bay, in Kodiak, and we were able to get a veterinarian out to conduct a necropsy on this past Saturday,” Migura said.

A third whale washed up just a few days later on a different part of the island.

“On Sunday night, our local network partner sent an email saying that they had received a report of another fresh, dead gray whale near Port Lions,” Migura said. “On Monday they were going to go out for us and collect some samples.”

Migura warns that the areas where the whales washed up should be avoided as the carcasses can attract bears.

If you see a stranded whale, NOAA officials ask that you to take photos and call NOAA’s stranding hotline as soon as possible at: 1-877-925-7773.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.