The bodies of four gray whales have washed ashore on San Francisco Bay Area beaches in just the last nine days.
“It’s alarming to respond to four dead gray whales in just over a week because it really puts into perspective the current challenges faced by this species,” says Dr. Pádraig Duignan, Director of Pathology at The Marine Mammal Center.
At least one of the whales was struck by a ship. It is not clear how the other three died.
The first, a 41-foot adult female gray whale, washed up at San Francisco’s Crissy Field on Mar. 31. Another adult female was found Saturday at Moss Beach in San Mateo County.
A third whale was discovered near the Berkeley Marina on Wednesday, and one day later the fourth washed up at Muir Beach in Marin County.
More whales have washed ashore in the Bay Area in recent years and scientists worry that it may be because the animals are having trouble finding enough food to finish their annual migration from Mexico to Alaska.
However, it appears that the whale that was struck by a ship was otherwise in good health when it died.
Experts at the Marine Mammal Center say malnutrition, entanglement in fishing gear and trauma from ship strikes are the most common causes of death for whales in recent years.