5th gray whale found dead in NW waters in 10 days

5th gray whale found dead in NW waters in 10 days »Play Video
SEATTLE -- The discovery of another dead gray whale in Puget Sound on Wednesday has marine experts wondering whether Mother Nature is taking her normal course, or if there's a mounting problem.

Experts have not determined the cause of the latest whale death.

The animals are currently migrating from Mexico to their summer feeding grounds around Alaska. But when they get this far from the Pacific, they can starve to death.

The latest victim was spotted along a private beach in West Seattle just south of the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal.

"Around 4 o'clock it was still moving. Then about 15, 20 minutes later, it just stopped moving," said area resident Jordan Newman.

The dead gray whale that had apparently beached itself.

"It's very sad to think that a whale would die right on this beach. We've never seen that before," said Sue Murray, another area resident.

Residents who treasure their water views and the marine life that comes with it had hoped the whale that was so close to shore was involved in something much different.

"I was hoping that it was whales mating when I first came running down to see what was happening. Then neighbors said it was dead, so it's a sad situation," said Serena Tarica.

In the past 10 days, five dead gray whales have been found - four in Puget Sound waters and the fifth near Vancouver, B.C.

Marine biologists say it's not unusual for five to seven whales to die in a migration season. But if there are more deaths so close together, they say, the cause for concern could go up dramatically.

Experts at the Orca Network say the big problem is that some gray whales are straying into waters too far inland, and getting in trouble.

"They're stressed. They're already nutritionally challenged; they're basically starving. They don't have the strength to go on with the rest of the migration. And they come in and they can't find food here," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.

There have also been several recent, documented attacks on gray whales by transient killer whales.

It's still unclear if any of the deaths are related to run-ins with Orcas, which is not seen very often.

A necropsy is scheduled for Thursday to figure out a cause of death. Experts say all of the other gray whales that have been found dead were considerably underweight.