Thresher shark rarely seen on Oregon beach washes ashore and dies, experts say

Oregon beachgoers gathered to take in a rare sight this week: a thresher shark washed ashore alive, according to a local aquarium.

Nehalem Bay State Park officials called Seaside Aquarium staff to the Manzanita beach while the stranded 9-foot shark was still living, though the 4- or 5-year-old animal soon died, the Seaside Signal reports.

“The shark created quite a scene on the beach as visitors and locals gathered to see,” Seaside Aquarium staff wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, adding that the animal was “the first thresher shark to wash ashore in the area in over 10 years.”

It’s not clear how or why the animal died, the Signal reports.

“Whenever possible the aquarium will recover dead sharks that wash ashore ... allowing students in local schools the chance to (perform) necropsies,” aquarium staff said, according to the Oregonian. “Though sad it is a great educational opportunity that they may not get otherwise.”

While the thresher shark’s range includes Oregon, the creatures are more often found in waters off the California coast, the Seaside Signal reports.

Thresher sharks are native to oceans and seas around the world, can grow up to 20 feet long, and commonly prey on anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, squid, octopus, crabs and shrimp, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Seaside Aquarium staff wrote on Facebook that “when sharks strand there are usually (underlying) issues. Even if the large shark could be placed back in the water, it would have washed back in as it was in the process of passing away.”

The shark may not seem big as it lies on the beach with bystanders next to it, but the aquarium staff said measurements confirmed it was nearly 9 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.

“It may not have looked that large but it measured out to 8 feet 8 1/2 inches,” aquarium staff wrote on Facebook. “The shark’s tail was 4 feet 8 inches and its body was 4 feet 1/2 inch.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.