GRAPHIC: Sperm whale carcass washes ashore in Oregon

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 10:43 AM CST
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GRAPHIC WARNING: The video associated with this story includes images that some may find disturbing.

OREGON (KPTV/Gray News) - A sperm whale that washed up dead on an Oregon beach was killed by a ship, according to the results of an official necropsy released Monday afternoon.

“The whale was an adult male, about 20 years old,” said a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. “The cause of death was a ship strike, based on internal bleeding around the wound. The whale was otherwise in good condition.”

The Coast Guard said crews received reports of a beached whale at Fort Stevens State Park just around noon on Saturday. The whale washed ashore just south of the Wreck of the Peter Iredale.

NOAA did a preliminary exam Sunday and removed the whale’s jaw for safekeeping because sperm whale jaws and teeth are prized on the black market and could otherwise be stolen.

It is unusual for a sperm whale to be in the area during this time of year, according to NOAA.

Many people visited the Oregon coast for a rare sight they said they didn’t want to miss.

“This is one of my most exciting days. I’ve dreamed about seeing a whale washed up since childhood,” said Amber Limb, a visitor. “I had to take a pause and take it all in before I started taking as many pictures as I could.”

“It’s a little alarming, but it’s nature, so it’s interesting,” said Kay Schilliam, another visitor.

“I thought about the line from “Moby Dick.” Captain Ahab says a dead whale or a stowed boat, well, you have both right here,” Dan Limb, a visitor, said.

NOAA officials said it was a full-grown sperm whale.

“Forty to 50 feet long,” said Michael Milstein, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries. “They are endangered, so they are protected.”

Officials are asking people to not get too close to the whale. They said it’s for the safety of the whale and evidence as well as for the public and pets because marine mammal carcasses could potentially carry diseases.

The disposal of the whale’s carcass has not been decided yet. It’s up to the landowner, which is Oregon State Parks. But burial is not out of the question.