A dead whale was discovered near Fremont on Sept. 24 and biologists are currently planning to do a necropsy to determine its cause of death.

The 25-foot whale carcass was found by a park ranger in the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge 200 yards, or 600 feet, south of the Alameda Creek Channel. Experts have not yet identified it, though some believe it could be a baleen or a gray juvenile. It was fairly decomposed by the time it was spotted, so experts believe it had alredy been dead for some time.

Wildlife employees were unable to reach it however, due to the tide making the area inaccessible to people. "We are waiting for tide conditions to improve because the carcass is currently too far out for our team to respond," said Giancarlo Rulli of the Marine Mammal Center.

Once reaching the whale becomes possible, biologists from the Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be able to take samples from the body and conduct tests to determine how it died. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services spokesperson Doug Cordell said that they had been contacted about the carcass last Sept. 19 but had not heard more about it until Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Since early this year, at least 12 dead whales have been spotted in the Bay Area. Last May, a dead gray whale was found in Half Moon Bay; and just last August, another dead whale was found washed ashore, this time on a Pacifica beach. Biologists have yet to determine what could be causing these deaths or if they are somehow connected to one another.

Nevertheless, some experts don't see these incidents as a cause for great alarm. Schramm said that while there have been more dead whales being spotted lately, given the some of the species' migration habits, it should not really be a surprise.    

"Gray whales are kind of like the whales in the neighborhood," Schramm said. "They like to migrate near shore."

Professor Sue Pemberton of the California Academy of Sciences added that the deaths don't appear to be caused by anomalies in the ocean or a possible epidemic.

"I think it's a coincidence. They are two different species and age classes. There are pretty strong onshore winds at this beach, and it lends itself to being a repository for dead marine mammals and garbage," Pemberton said. "I'm not surprised. Animals die."

Photo: Pat Hawks | Flickr

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