A 20’ juvenile humpback whale washed shore north of the Alsea River near Waldport on Wednesday, August 14. A team organized by the Oregon State University-based Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (OMMSN) responded to the report early Wednesday morning and coordinated an all-day effort to relieve the animal’s stress while waiting for high tide. After two high tides—one mid-day Wednesday and one shortly after midnight Thursday—the whale remains stranded. A team of contractors representing the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration arrived early Thursday morning to help with an assessment of the whale.
Depending on the animal’s health, options include waiting for additional high tides, assisting its safe return to the ocean in some way, or euthanasia. The evaluation process will take several hours.
Students, volunteers, and staff with the OMMSN, Oregon Coast Aquarium, OSU Marine Mammal Institute, and OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center spent Wednesday providing comfort care by digging out around the beached whale while keeping it wet. Oregon State Park beach rangers provided support. During the Wednesday high tide, the whale managed to swim free briefly before stranding itself again. Members of the team stayed on site most of the night.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department reminds all residents and visitors the ocean shore is a wild environment and presents an invaluable opportunity to enjoy wildlife and natural cycles. Wildlife should be given a wide berth and shown respect at all times, however. Any stranded marine mammal should be reported immediately to 541-270-6830. Marine mammals, including carcasses, are protected by federal law and must be left untouched and given 150’ of space in all directions.
The OMMSN began in the 1980s and is involved in the collection and analysis of data and biological samples. Data collected from such events are entered into a national database that is used to establish baseline information on marine mammal communities and their health. The Stranding Network is a volunteer organization, with one paid staff member for the entire state of Oregon (the Network Coordinator). Stranding network members are from universities, state and federal agencies, and the general public, and they donate their time. The network does not receive state funds. Information on volunteering or donating to support the network is online at https://mmi.oregonstate.edu/ways-help.