Officials are pondering what to do about a decomposing humpback whale carcass spotted by several hikers Saturday north of Pico Cove just past San Simeon.
The stinky carcass has alternately been in the water or just barely up on shore, below the mean high-tide line, according to those who have hiked in to see it.
To do so, they had to wade through swaths of poison oak in the steep, rocky area that cannot be seen from the highway, nearby Pico Cove or the point or vista point to its north.
So far, the whale’s body hasn’t landed far enough inland to be the responsibility of the property owner, the Hearst Corp. The National Marine Fisheries Service Whale Stranding Network responds to reports of stranded whales.
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Some are saying privately that they don’t think it will be practical or appropriate to try to move or deal with a carcass that is already badly decomposed, and that the body could be left where it is, as has happened often in the past.
Other options include burying the body or dragging it out to sea.
It is common to have such carcasses land on Central Coast shores, especially after the heavy marine mammal traffic in this area this summer.
Anyone who sees a marine mammal carcass stranded on the beach can call the NMFS stranding network hotline at 866-767-6114.
Cambria resident Greg Burgener said that on Saturday the inflated carcass in the water appeared to be “ready to explode.” Jim Webb said the corpse was floating “belly up horribly distended with internal gas.”
State park rangers said late Monday that extra-high tides might carry the carcass out to sea, which was what everybody was hoping would happen. Unfortunately, it didn’t.