Rare pygmy sperm whale washes up on Sonoma Coast beach

22 February 2021

A dead pygmy sperm whale washed ashore on a Sonoma Coast beach over the weekend, giving marine mammal experts a rare chance to examine a creature that normally spends its life out in the ocean deep.

The intact body of the nine-foot-long pregnant whale beached Saturday on the sand at Salmon Creek, with no clear signs of trauma, said Barbie Halaska, necropsy manager with the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Pygmy sperm whales are pelagic, meaning they live in deeper waters beyond the continental shelf. They are far less likely to wash ashore than other species, such as gray and humpback whales.

“Even if one dies, they don’t necessarily strand on land,” Halaska said. “Getting to see one is really rare for us.”

Halaska and a team of about a half-dozen veterinary technicians, lab assistants and pathology experts went to the beach Sunday and collected the whale’s internal organs and head to be more fully examined at the center’s Marin County marine mammal hospital.

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