Ellen Steen

Ellen Steen

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It was a quiet morning fishing on Tillamook Bay when I got an alert on my cell phone from Kathy Burke: dead whale washing ashore on Bayocean Spit! Captain Pete and I hurriedly reeled in, hustled home and headed out to the beach. About a mile and a half north of our little village, we saw the dead whale. It was a juvenile gray whale, about 25 feet long, in bad shape. A park ranger was there to post signs protecting the carcass until Jim Rice, Stranding Coordinator for Oregon State University, could drive up to examine the whale. The park ranger told me they planned to simply leave it there and “let nature take its course,” as opposed to burying it, which they had done with a dead whale near Sand Lake recently. And, no, there are no plans to blow up the whale (for those not in the know, check out a story from Nov. 1970 about a whale being blown up on the beach in Florence).

It’s been almost 30 years since the Steen family last saw a dead whale washed up on Bayocean Spit. In May 1991, a large gray whale washed up near the south jetty. We reported that find to the authorities and to a friend whose husband worked for the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM employee got permission to retrieve the whale’s skeleton after the mammal had decomposed. He and an assistant went out with a flatbed truck and brought back the bones in late November, but they could not bring back the entire skeleton at one time. They asked if they could store some of the bones under our deck for a while; we said yes. The day after the bones were placed beneath the deck, our elderly neighbor, Art Bogart, walked by them and commented, “That was sure a big turkey you folks had for Thanksgiving.” The skull of that whale was put on display in the Yaquina Head Marine Gardens near Newport, Ore.

If you find a live or dead marine mammal on the beach, contact Jim Rice at OSU. His cell phone is 541-270-6830, his office number is 541-867-0446, and his e-mail address is jim.rice@oregonstate.edu. Jim’s primary interest, according to Oregon State’s website, is working with the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine to investigate the disease processes affecting marine mammals along the Oregon Coast.

Sonya Thompson reported a couple of critter sightings. Both a bobcat and a coyote were recently seen in her 5th St. NW neighborhood. But no elk or deer; perhaps social distancing among the species? In any case, those of you with small pets might want to bring them in at night.

Sad news to report: Longtime Cape Meares resident Jay Jones, age 93, passed away May 19 after having suffered a stroke the week before. He was predeceased by his wife, Marcene, in 2015 and his daughter, Jaylen, in 2012. Condolences to the Jones family from all of us in Cape Meares.

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