Pacific Northwest
A sperm whale that washed up dead on the Oregon coast had been hit by a ship, federal officials say.(Oregon State Parks)

OR - Sperm whale that washed up dead in Oregon was hit and killed by a ship

PORTLAND, Ore. — A 40-foot sperm whale that washed up dead on Oregon’s northwestern coast was killed after being struck by a ship, federal biologists said Monday.

Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries agency, NOAA Fisheries, came to that conclusion after examining a large gash in the whale’s side.

“There was hemorrhaging, so that indicates that the animal was alive when it was struck,” said Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast region.

The whale washed ashore Saturday at Fort Stevens State Park in northwestern Oregon.

The biologists performed a necropsy at the site where the whale beached. They cut the whale open, examined its insides and took samples in order to learn about its health and condition. They determined it was a 20-year-old male, Milstein said.

Members of the NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammals Stranding Network removed the whale’s lower jaw and teeth in order to study them, but also to protect the remains from looters.

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“Sperm whale teeth and jaws are very prominent and quite lucrative on the black market. We removed the jaws so it did not get liberated by other means,” Milstein said.

Sperm whales, the largest toothed whale, were nearly decimated by the whaling industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. The prized waxy substance found in their heads, spermaceti, was used in oil lamps, lubricants and candles. They are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

There are hundreds of reports of stranded marine mammals on the West Coast every year, according to the NOAA network, which operates nationwide and is composed of scientific investigators and institutions, wildlife and fisheries agencies, law enforcement and volunteers.

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