A 35-foot whale from a deep water species rarely found near shore was found dead on a beach in Point Reyes National Seashore on Monday, according to the Marine Mammal Center.
A team of 11 scientists responded Monday from the Marin County-based center, as well as the California Academy of Sciences and the National Park Service, to investigate an adult Baird's beaked whale found on Point Reyes' North Beach.
A necropsy on the severely degraded carcass of the whale found evidence of extensive hemorrhaging near vertebrae on its left side as well as a severed fluke, indicating a possible vessel strike, Marine Mammal Center officials said.
The Baird's beaked whale is the first of its species that the center has responded to in its 41-year history, and National Marine Fisheries Services records show less than a dozen of the whales have ever been reported stranded on California, Oregon and Washington shorelines.
"Beaked whales are a very interesting family of toothed whale that mostly live off the continental shelf edge, foraging in deep canyons to feed on squid," Dr. Padraig Duignan, the center's chief pathologist, said in a statement.
"The opportunity to perform a necropsy on such a unique animal that we rarely have the opportunity to examine will help contribute to our baseline data on the species," Duignan said.
Researchers from the San Francisco-based California Academy of Sciences collected bone samples for further study and scientists plan on performing a follow-up evaluation on Thursday to determine the sex of the whale and whether any vertebrae were broken.
Anyone who sees a sick or injured marine mammal is asked to call the Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-7325 and should maintain a safe distance and keep their dogs away.