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Dead whale washes ashore at Kodiak village

Posted: October 1, 2012 - 11:01pm

KODIAK — A 40-foot humpback whale has washed ashore near a Kodiak Island community and probably will be a feast for the island’s famous bears, according to a whale expert.

Bree Witteveen told the Kodiak Daily Mirror that there are no plans to move the carcass that beached near Chiniak, population 44, which is 45 miles southeast of the city of Kodiak.

She blames the death on other marine mammals.

“It’s an obvious victim of killer whales,” said Witteveen, a marine mammal biologist for the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.

She took skin and blubber samples Thursday for testing and was surprised by its size.

“It was a little bit bigger than I would have expected,” she said. Resident killer whales off Kodiak typically attack smaller calves and yearlings.

The carcass is less than a quarter-mile from Road’s End Restaurant at Mile 42 Chiniak Highway. As of Saturday, the carcass had not decomposed enough to smell

That’s likely to change as birds and other animals pick away at it, Witteveen said.

“I imagine in a couple days or a couple weeks, there will be a couple of bears on it,” she said.

Kodiak brown bears, she said, usually don’t notice dead whales until they stink.

The humpback is the sixth whale stranding or entanglement in Kodiak this year, and National Marine Fisheries Service figures indicate that’s normal.

Last year, five humpbacks, two gray whales and one whale that could not be identified were stranded ashore in the Kodiak region. In 2010, there were 10 stranded whales.

“It’s definitely more common in the summer because there’s more whales around,” Witteveen said.

A 60-foot fin whale over the summer became entangled in the anchor line of a fishing boat in Uyak Bay. Witteveen helped the Navy remove another from the Naval Special Warfare Center on Spruce Cape.

The Chiniak humpback will not be moved.

“It’s accessible from the road, but it’s not like a big wide open beach,” she said.

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