ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A whale found dead in Alaska’s Cook Inlet is likely the same animal that was stranded in a river for several days, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The agency received a report on June 12 that a deceased gray whale was seen from the air at the mouth of the Theodore River in west Cook Inlet.
The large male appears to be the same whale that was trapped in Twentymile River near Girdwood, officials said.
The whale was first spotted in the river May 25 and then became stuck at Twentymile River bridge at low tide June 3.
The whale remained in the river for more than a week before freeing itself and swimming into the deeper waters of Turnagain Arm.
It is improbable two gray whales could become stranded in upper Cook Inlet during the same time period, NOAA Fisheries biologist Barbara Mahoney said in a statement.
“We hoped for the best, but expected the worst given the poor condition of the gray whale when it left the Twentymile River,” Mahoney said.
Gray whales migrate from Mexico to Alaska to feed. A high number of gray whales were stranded last year, leading the NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event that remains in effect.
NOAA Fisheries said 12 gray whales have died in Alaska so far this year, while there were 48 confirmed gray whale deaths in the state’s waters in 2019.