A 37-foot long gray whale found dead on a beach in Washington state's Puget Sound had a golf ball in its stomach, but scientists don't know what killed the large mammal.
A stomach examination of the sub adult male showed he had been feeding on shrimp but also had other debris like pieces of wood and rope, algae, plastic, the golf ball and some flat spongy material. The garbage was minimal and not the cause of death— which remains under investigation with tissue tests said Brian Gorman of the NOAA Fisheries. There were no signs of trauma on the exterior of the big guy.
The carcass was spotted Sunday on the west side of Camano Island and towed to a more secure location at the Whidbey Island Naval Station, about 50 miles north of Seattle for the necropsy by biologists and volunteers.
The skeleton of the whale will be cleaned and sent to the Smithsonian Institution. "We don't get these that often that are the right size and in good shape," said Gorman.
He noted that there was less debris in the whale's stomach than in a whale that was found dead off the coast of Seattle in April 2010. Its stomach contained plastic bags and a pair of sweat pants.
Gray whales can pick up debris because of the way they feed— scooping up sediment from the sea bottom and filtering it through baleen. They feed mostly on ghost shrimp but will scoop up any trash that is on the seas floor as well, then swallow it.
This poor fellow was probably migrating north to the Bering Sea off Alaska from Baja California, Mexico for the summer.
It was funny when Kramer was hitting golf balls in that episode of "Seinfeld" but not so humorous when it could possibly kill one of these gentle giants in real life.