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Sad development in case of whale stranded on Oregon Coast

Officials decided today to euthanize a juvenile whale beached on the Oregon Coast after a round-the-clock rescue effort.

At about 11:30 a.m., officials said the next high tide was unlikely to be enough to return the humpback whale to the ocean, and that it would be euthanized to prevent further suffering, the Oregonian reported today.

A team of experts and volunteers had been working day and night to keep the endangered whale alive.

The 21-foot juvenile whale became stranded on the Oregon Coast north of Waldport on Wednesday morning. Staff and students from the Oregon State University-based Marine Mammal Institute responded immediately to the scene to assess the situation and keep beachgoers away from the animal.

Marine scientists, students and volunteers continually doused the whale with buckets of water. Oregon Coast Aquarium staff also arrived to help those on hand dig a trench around the whale, creating a shallow pool to keep the mammal wet.

The team dealt with two big disappointments. During a mid-day high tide Wednesday, the whale managed to swim freely for a short time before stranding itself again.

During a high tide at 1 a.m. this morning, the whale did not make it back to the ocean. The team had broken into two shifts to provide continuous help for the whale.

Oregon Coast Aquarium operations manager Tricia Howe stayed at the site overnight and witnessed the whale’s attempt to free itself during the 1 a.m. high tide.

“The whale is definitely a fighter. Several times it was facing the ocean and working its way closer, as well as rolling toward the ocean,” Howe said. “However, when it stopped to rest, the powerful waves pushed it back up on the sand. Due to the extremely high tide last night, it is now even closer to the dunes.”

Experts placed soaked linen sheets over the whale to keep it cool and moist.

Veterinary staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Willamette Veterinary Hospital arrived today to perform blood tests and assess the health of the whale.

Options included waiting for more high tides, assisting the whale to get back into the ocean somehow or euthanasia, experts said. Marine Mammal Institute staff and students, Oregon State Park beach rangers and Oregon Coast Aquarium staff set up a barrier around the perimeter of the whale with information signs to warn approaching beachgoers.

Federal and state law prohibits touching, feeding or disturbing marine mammals. Violating the law can lead to a $25,000 fine. Experts said keeping your distance is the best way to help stranded whales while authorized responders take action.

The United States listed humpback whales as endangered in the United States under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. They are distinguished from gray whales by their dark color and long pectoral fins, and individuals can be identified by their unique tail fluke patterns.

To report an injured, stranded, or dead marine mammal, call the Oregon State Police Tipline at 800-452-7888 or the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 541-270-6830.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

A team of experts and volunteers work day and night in an effort to save a stranded juvenile whale.