Gray Whale Dies After Nearly 7 Weeks in the Klamath River (video)


After spending nearly seven weeks in the Klamath River in northern California, 50 miles south of the Oregon border, a gray whale died early Tuesday morning. According to the Associated Press via SFGate, the 45-foot whale and her six-month-old calf appeared in the river in late June. No one knows why they ended up in fresh water on their journey north from birthing grounds in Baja California; scientists speculate that the pair may have ventured inland after being driven by killer whales.

Here’s a video of both whales in June:

On July 23, the calf swam back out to sea; this would have been just about the time it was ready to wean and go off on its own. Here’s the calf in a photo by goingslo:

Baby Gray Whale

But the female whale remained, despite attempts (including playing recordings of killer whales) to draw her out to the mouth of the river, says CNN.

This video shows the two whales shortly before the calf swam back to sea:

Big crowds came to see the whale, with some people serenading her with the flute or violin, notes the Associated Press via SFGate:

Instead it remained, sometimes feeding on invasive species of clams and snails in the mud of the river bottom, shooting great geysers of air and water out of her blowhole, and spending much of its time within sight of people who lined the U.S. Highway 101 bridge for the unusual show.

Native American Yurok tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke, Sr. noted that the crowds were welcome by all: In Del Norte County, the unemployment rate was 13.8 percent in June.

Another photo by goingslo:

Gray Whale Spout

Then on Monday afternoon, the whale beached herself on a sandbar after “behaving oddly,” says Jim Milbury of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Rescuers attempted to help her back into the water, but she died around 4:00 am on Tuesday. Sarah Wilkin, a coordinator for the NOAA, said the whale did not appear to have starved to death. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito will perform a necropsy to determine her cause of death.

The whale was buried near where she died in a ceremony with songs and prayers, said O’Rourke:

“To have such a large animal in our presence for so long was a great gift, but now nature has taken its course…

“The whale is another miracle of our maker.”

“We tried to put her away with respect. The whale became a part of this town.”

O’Rourke said he had never seen a whale so far about the river and suggested that the whale “might have been showing its calf a place it had known in its youth.” I’m left wondering: Did the female whale know she wasn’t going to make it, and therefore stayed in the river? Is her calf doing all right out on its own?


Related Care2 Coverage

Humpback Whale’s Amazing Rescue Caught on Tape (VIDEO)

Save the Kimberley and the Humpback Whales

Migrating With Mum: A Whale Story

Photos by goingslo

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Pinke A.
Pinke A.4 years ago

Ok,no one knows why the whale ended up there! I would like to know,are the any great big sonar systems in use near by the whale's normal way??It would sure make them loose their way!

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

Since we could not ask and be answered we may never know.

bellabecka C.
bellabecka C.4 years ago

For whatever reason the whale ended up in the river may never be known? But I think she ended up there possibly due to a killer whale and possibly may have been dying from internal injuries? I hope the calf makes it back safely since the article says that the calf was at weaning stage to go out on its own.

Maria S.
Maria S.4 years ago

It's so sad & strange that this keeps happening. About a month ago a dolphin died the same way here in Greece. People and divers tried to lead the dolphin back to sea but unfortunately couldn't and after a many attemps and few days the dolphin died.
Hope the baby whale survives.

Alessandra C.

Too sad!!

Sonya Armenia Redfield

This is so sad

pam wilkerson
pam wilkerson4 years ago

I need to say why have no one do something about it? These whales can not survive in fresh water. If I have seen it I would call immedialy to get them out of there and put them back in the oceans. As for the baby, I pray that baby will survive and I think someone will need to look for and keep the baby safe. Out of harm. That's made me so sad and angry! May the Lord God take care of the mamma whale.

Chris P.
Chris P.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing this very tragic story.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam4 years ago

so sad, noted.

dawn w.
Dawn W.4 years ago

Poor thing,so sad.Why does this keep happening,with whales and dolphins?It's strange.I hope the baby survives.