Baby orca found dead on beach: 'This is a very valuable specimen'

Baby orca found dead on beach: 'This is a very valuable specimen'
Photo by Tiffany Boothe/Seaside Aquarium

SEAVIEW, Wash. - A newborn killer whale washed ashore on the beach Monday.

The small female whale, measuring just less than 8 feet, was recovered by Fish and Wildlife officer Brett Hopkins. 

Seaside Aquarium manger, Keith Chandler, met Hopkins in Illawalco where they transferred the whale. 

Chandler was then able to get the whale to marine mammal expert Dalin D'Alessandro who took the whale back with her to Portland State University.

Dr. Debbie Duffield was to perform a necropsy on the baby Killer Whale Tuesday at Portland State University, the Seaside Aquarium said.

"Experts have already determined that this animal was not a still born as first believed and that it probably died from complications from a hiatal hernia," the aquarium reports. "They are hoping to determine what type of regional ecological group this whale belonged to. There are three different recognized ecotypes among the Killer Whale population; residents, transients, and offshore. Each of these ecotypes has distinctive genetics, calls, social structure, ecological roles, and local ranges.

"This is a very valuable specimen," the aquarium said.

"Killer whales are one of the most studied marine mammals and information obtained by such a rare find can be quite valuable.  This is the first Killer Whale to wash ashore in our area in about 8 years and the first newborn Killer Whale to wash ashore in our area in the 16-year history of Seaside Aquarium’s involvement with the Stranding network." 

A couple Killer Whale facts:

  • Newborn killer whales measure approximately 8 feet and weigh about 400 pounds.
     
  • Gestation for killer whales is around 15 months. 
     
  • Calves will nurse for about two years. 
     
  • Females usually will only produce one calve every five years and in their life time probably give birth to about five calves. 
     
  • Females can live into their 70s and perhaps into their 90s, but males usually do not exceed a lifespan of 30 years.