Dead porpoise found at Sandy Shores

A female harbor porpoise was found last week at Sandy Shores. - Ann Stateler Photo
A female harbor porpoise was found last week at Sandy Shores.
— image credit: Ann Stateler Photo

A freshly dead harbor porpoise in pristine condition was found on the beach at Sandy Shores last week. According to Ann Stateler, coordinator of the Vashon Hydrophone Project, such a sighting is rare in the Puget Sound region.

The animal was reported to the hydrophone project on Friday. Stateler, in an email to The Beachcomber, said she examined the adult female and found tooth rake marks and old healed injuries, indicating “that the plucky porpoise survived a transient killer whale attack.” The carcass, however, showed no overt signs of recent physical trauma, such as a strike by a ship.

The cause of death was not immediately apparent. A thorough necropsy and other lab work will identify factors that contributed to the porpoise’s death, she said.

Marine mammal carcasses in excellent condition are highly sought-after for research, she said. Biologists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Cascadia Research Collective were notified of the find. A biologist with NMFS’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center came from Seattle to collect the specimen.

After decades of decline, the shy harbor porpoise seems to be rebounding in lower Puget Sound; sightings, Stateler said, have increased in the last decade.

Islanders are more likely to see the larger, black and white Dall’s porpoise in local waters. Finding an intact carcass of either porpoise species on Vashon is uncommon, she said.

Stateler and Odin Lonning, also with the hydrophone project, are authorized marine mammal stranding responders. T Yamamoto of Wolftown is also an authorized responder.

Islanders are urged to report whale sightings as well as sick, injured or dead marine mammals to the Vashon Hydrophone Project at 463-9041.


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