Beached whale free, but still weak

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING5 News and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on July 8, 2010 at 10:51 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 8 at 5:46 PM

EVERETT, Wash. - A live, gray whale was struggling to survive after it was beached in shallow water along the coast of Washington.

National Marine Fisheries Service spokesman Brian Gorman says the outlook isn't good for the animal because gray whales don't normally come ashore unless they are injured or sick.

The whale was freed Thursday afternoon, but it still appeared very weak.

The whale, which had been seen by several residents in the area for the last several days, was discovered at low tide Thursday stranded in ankle-high water at Harborview Park in Everett.

First neighbors, then federal marine wildlife officials and workers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, used buckets to pour sea water on the 40-foot gray whale. They put a protective cloth over the whale, all in an effort to keep it cool, which is critical for these marine mammals.

At noon the whale was about 100 yards off of the beach. With the water level coming up, the whale began to move a little bit. The rescuers could hear it breathing and there were some other signs of encouragement. They were hoping with the high tide they could possibly help free it.

Biologists with NOAA say the whale appears to be in poor health and worry even if it was freed, it may not have the strength to nurse itself back to health.

Whale strandings are not uncommon in Puget Sound. Many gray whales are exhausted by the time they stop in to feed on ghost shrimp during their long northern migration each spring.

Wildlife officials are trying to identify this whale and suspect it may be the same one that appeared weak as it cruised through Everett's busy public marina area last month.

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