News Column

Whale Found Floating in Puget Sound

Jan. 21, 2013

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.

A whale seen floating near the USS Ronald Reagan in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard about 9 p.m. Saturday was gone by Sunday morning, suggesting that it was alive, according to one state wildlife official.

The whale was discovered by a duty officer, said Naval Base Kitsap spokesman Tom Danaher. The species was undetermined.

Navy officials contacted the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife on Saturday night to remove the whale, Danaher said.

On Sunday morning, duty officers in the shipyard and on board the Reagan saw no sign of it, said Mary Anne Mascianica, spokeswoman for PSNS.

"Because it's gone, it's not there today, it would suggest it's probably alive and swam out of there," said Steve Jeffries, a marine mammal specialist with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

A gray whale was seen in Tacoma Tuesday. Jeffries and Howard Garrett of the nonprofit Orca Network said the animal sighted in Sinclair Inlet could be the same individual.

One observer who saw the whale Saturday night told Navy officials it looked to be about 10 feet long. Jeffries said determining the species from the brief description would be difficult. The whale could be any one of five species that have been seen in Puget Sound, he said. It is also likely that the whale was longer than 10 feet but appeared to be that length as seen from above floating in the water.

Garrett said the whale's behavior, as described by observers, indicates it may be in distress. Like the PSNS whale, the whale in Tacoma, was seen floating in Thea Foss Waterway with boats nearby, which would be unusual for a gray whale.

If they are the same individual, Garrett said, "It's going into some strange places that usually indicate it doesn't have long. I would say these are all signs of a very stressed gray whale."

Garrett said the whale in Tacoma, estimated to be 20 feet long by one observer, had part of one fluke sheared off.



Source: (c)2013 the Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, Wash.) Distributed by MCT Information Services