NEWPORT, Ore. A 35-foot humpback whale died and washed up on the coast near Newport just hours after it was attacked by a group of killer whales, according to researchers.
The male humpback had tooth marks on it, which appeared to match the telltale signs of killer whale attacks, according to Jim Rice with the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
The tooth rake marks themselves indicate an encounter with killer whales, but not necessarily a mortal one, a lot of whales have such scars. It's the torn tongue that was most compelling in suggesting that killer whales were responsible for its death, Rice explained. Killer whales particularly target the tongues of large whales for food.
Rice said researchers collected samples of the dead humpback whale, took photos and measured it. Then, it was buried by Oregon State Parks. It had washed up near Lost Creek State Park, about seven miles south of Newport.
Photos: Dead whale on Oregon Coast
Rice said gray whales are the most common species spotted along the Oregon Coast and it s not unusual for a pod of killer whales to attack a young gray whale.
However, humpback whales are less common in that area.
Rice also said that killer whales typically target calves, instead of larger whales, since they are easier prey.