A huge whale bleeding from a gaping wound washed into a cove just south of Fort Bragg Monday evening.

"It was probably hit by a boat. This doesn't look like something nature would do," said Larry Wagner, a photographer who lives on the bluff overlooking the cove.

Wagner believes it's a blue whale, which is the largest of all mammals, and estimated its length at about 70 feet.

The gash — located in the whale's midsection — was between 8 feet and 10 feet long, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Alan Veach. It was deep, exposing the whale's blubber layer, he said.

He said he phoned the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County and was told a volunteer would be sent to examine the whale.

The Coast Guar was notified at about 5 p.m. that a whale was in the surf near the Mendocino Coast Botannical Gardens. The mammal may have been alive when he arrived at the scene but it was difficult to tell because the heavy surf was moving it around, he said.

"I assumed it was alive because it still had blood pumping out of it," and other people thought they saw its tail moving, he said.

The petty officer said he couldn't identify the specific type of whale, but believes it is one of a group known as filter feeders, or baleen whales, based on the shape of its mouth and its size.

He said the Coast Guard does not normally become involved wirth either the rescue of whales or the removal of carcasses.

Dead beached whales often create a terrible stench. "I just hope it washes away," Wagner said.