An endangered young fin whale beached itself and died Monday morning on Upton Beach, fascinating and saddening a crowd that gathered at the Marin County beach hoping the huge mammal could be saved.
A veterinary team from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito found no obvious sign of trauma or infection during a post-mortem exam Monday afternoon and buried the 20-ton carcass Monday evening in the sand above the high-tide line.
Experts believe the approximately 40-foot juvenile likely came ashore during high tide around midnight Sunday, said Kate Harle, a spokeswoman for the Marine Mammal Center.
Beached Fin Whale At Upton Beach
A resident at Seadrift, on the north end of Stinson Beach, reported the struggling whale at 6:30 a.m., said Marin County Parks Ranger Rob Ruiz.
Veterinarians from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito — the only marine mammal rescue group from Mendocino County to San Luis Obispo County — assembled a team shortly after 7 a.m. with hopes of assessing the health of the whale and creating a treatment or rescue plan.
The animal was still alive, drawing a crowd of onlookers on the broad sandy beach as it occasionally thrashed in an apparent attempt to move out past the surf line. National parks, county parks and county sheriff's deputies responded to keep onlookers — and their dogs and children — away from the thrashing animal.
"People were trying to take pictures standing on it," Ruiz said, and some dogs wanted to bite it.
The whale died in the surf around 9 a.m., said Shawn Johnson, the rescue center's director of veterinary science.
"It's just sad," said Amy Sass, who happened upon the sight from her accommodations down the beach. Her theater company, the Ragged Wing Ensemble of Oakland, was having a retreat nearby.
She watched the whale solemnly, a striking difference from many onlookers who snapped photos or went around the rangers' yellow tape to get a closer look. Others let their dogs run up to sniff the carcass.