Yesterday a weasel, today a whale

Aug 9, 2012 | 0 comments

This morning one of our interpretive rangers came back from teaching the weekly Tundra Tots program and announced they had stumbled across something very interesting on the beach.
“A seal?” someone guessed.
“A walrus?”
“Bigger,” he he said.

Yup. It was all I could do to contain my excitement for the rest of the day through work. As soon as I got off, we walked down the block to the usual area of the beach where we sometimes take kids on ranger programs. 
Whale carcass

Sure enough, the hulking mass of pale flesh and blubber stood out like a sore thumb in the middle of the beach, right where I had been helping with a junior ranger program not even 3 weeks ago. (Sorry for the graphic nature of the photos — I hope you can appreciate the awesomeness enough to overlook the gross-factor!). 

The tail

Surprisingly, the smell wasn’t bad at all unless you stood on one side of it (then it could knock you to your knees!). We inspected it for a little while, and I figured out it was a male, about 18 feet long and laying on its back.

Ranger standing next to it for scale

As for the species, this was a little harder to deduce. It appeared to have a large throat pouch, which would mean it could either be a humpback or a bowhead. Based on the body size and the shortness of the fins, I think it’s a bowhead, unless I’m forgetting some other local species.

Partially decomposed pectoral fin

As for whether it died of natural causes or was hunted (which is also very common around here), that I don’t know. I suspect it died naturally, because it would be unusual for someone to kill it and not take its parts, but who knows? I’ll be interested to see how long it stays there or what will happen to it.


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