A dead male gray whale that washed up on a privately owned shoreline south of Cambria on May 14 had rake marks that could have been from an attack of killer whales, said scientists who examined the leviathan.
The gray’s lower jaw and tongue also were missing, which the experts said is common in orca kills.
On May 17, the carcass was starting to float near the shoreline and could have been heading back out to sea.Nicky Beaulieu, a member of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s whale-stranding team, said observers had spotted the whale’s body about a week before it came ashore.
Wayne Perryman of San Diego — who leads the Southwest Fisheries Service’s gray whale count at Piedras Blancas each year for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — has only seen photos of the dead gray. Based on those and site reports from Beaulieu, who is also part of the whale counting team, Perryman estimates that the dead whale was a calf about 20 feet long.
“We’ve seen killer whales around this year, and supposedly there was a kill” observed somewhat north of Piedras Blancas, he said. “This could be that whale.”
The carcass of a 23-foot-long gray whale calf washed up north of Cayucos in May 2007. It, too, bore markings of a killer whale attack.
At that time, it was reportedly the first gray whale calf killed by an orca to have washed up on a beach in San Luis Obispo County since February 2004.
The whale counters spend time during each year’s gray whale migration north to tally how many gray cows swim past with their calves.
“This is a good year. I’m excited,” Perryman said.