LONG BEACH, Wash. — An orca that washed ashore over the weekend near Long Beach has been identified as a resident of the L Pod.
Researchers identified the dead killer whale as L-112, a member of the endangered southern resident orcas that frequent Puget Sound and the rest of the Salish Sea. The Center for Whale Research said the orca was born in 2009.
Her body was found about a mile north of the Cranberry Beach approach.
A necropsy was performed on L-112's body Sunday. The cause of death was determined to be trauma, but biologists with Cascadia Research said it is not known what the cause of the trauma may have been.
During the necropsy, biologists found trauma around L-112's head, chest and right side.
Because L-112 was a resident orca, biologists said will learn much more about other resident orcas in the Puget Sound area, as well as those in the L Pod. They collected tissue samples to test her genetics, contaminants, food habits, biotoxins, and others.
They will also test the orca's skull for signs of any damage that may have been caused by navy sonar. The Canadian Navy was observed using its sonar last week in the presence of L Pod in the San Juan Islands.
Scientists have longed believed that testing can cause severe pain and damage to the sensitive hearing systems of orcas. There is no evidence that is the case in this event but researchers are not ready to rule it out.
The loss of the young, healthy orca brings the population of the southern residents to 88 but two of those 88 orcas have not been sighted in weeks.
The necropsy was performed by members of the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, including Portland State University, Cascadia Research, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Mammal Investigations, Seaside Aquarium, Seattle Seal Sitters, the Makah Tribe, and NOAA Fisheries.
Another newborn orca was found dead in November near Long Beach. It was identified as an eastern North Pacific offshore orca that died of a congenital defect.
Last month, a 39-foot sperm whale and 13-foot newborn gray whale washed ashore on the Long Beach Peninsula.