Saturday, May 28, 2011

Orcas suspected in Gray Whlae death

A young Gray Whale carcass that washed up on a beach south of Cambria was probably killed by Orcas, researchers who examined it say. I guess if you're involved with research, lying down next to the carcass makes sense. Thanks to Nicky Beaulieu of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s whale-stranding team for posing to help us get perspective on the size of the body.

The lower jaw and tongue were missing, which is typical of Orca kills. The body also showed 'rake' marks, that could have been made by Orca teeth.

In happier news, a female elephant seal with a GPS tracking device showed up at Piedras Blancas, so a team came down from Santa Cruz to retrieve the device. "The team, with a federal marine mammal research permit, notified the local docents on bluff duty and went down on the beach below the dunes south of the boardwalk with their equipment. They sedated the seal, removed the GPS unit, about the size of a wallet, glued to her head, weighed her, took blood, and did an ultrasound to determine the depth of her blubber (5 to 6 inches), an indication of how much weight she had added while foraging since her winter fast. They weighed her by putting her on a tarp attached to steel poles, winching it up and weighing it, then deducting the weight of the tarp. She weighed 900 pounds."

Dan Costas discussed the significance of retrieving the devices, how much more data can be extracted when the device itself is available. I look forward to learning more about where this animal traveled and what she was eating.

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