A gray whale that seems to be making the rounds of Puget Sound visited Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway early Tuesday afternoon, far from where experts say it should be this time of year.
“It’s a very unusual situation,” Susan Berta, co-founder of whale education group Orca Network, said about the sighting. “To me, that signals that it’s either very hungry and sick or just a curious juvenile. It’s possible it’s just a friendly one that’s checking people out.”
Either way, it’d do well to get out of Dodge.
Gray whales are usually in their breeding grounds off the coast of the Baja Peninsula this time of year, and generally struggle to find food if they get lost in Puget Sound on the way, according to Orca Network.
Looking at a KIRO-TV aerial photo, Berta said she could confirm that the whale seen Tuesday is a gray.
It could be the same one that surprised a group of squid catchers by swimming Dec. 28 along the Les Davis Pier, she said. The mammal reportedly snapped squidding lines and a pole as it circled the pier.
Orca Network has received about 10 reports of possible gray whale sightings in Puget Sound since Dec. 23, including of one that briefly got tangled in fishing nets up the Puyallup River south of the Clarks Creek Bridge on Jan. 4, but managed to free itself.
“Usually when a gray whale is here at this time of year, it doesn’t end well,” said Jessie Huggins, stranding coordinator for Cascadia Research. “It’s definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
If the whale washes up dead on shore, Huggins will respond and probably be the one to facilitate the examination and necropsy of the mammal, she said.
Its flukes are very identifiable, which she said means researches will know if they’re dealing with one animal or several if it lands ashore anytime soon.
However, squid might be sustaining the creature for now, at least.
Another group of squid catchers, in Edmonds, had a run-in with a gray whale Sunday that was almost identical to the one in the Les Davis Pier sighting, Berta said.
“Maybe he’s eating enough calamari to keep him healthy,” she said. “Sometimes they can last for quite a while.”
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268