Evidence points to orca attack in whale that washed ashore on Sonoma Coast

May 17, 2016

A dead gray whale calf that washed ashore Monday on the Sonoma Coast appears to have been the victim of a violent orca attack that was caught on video by local fishermen two days earlier.

That’s the conclusion of experts at the California Academy of Science, who said photos of the juvenile male whale show a distinctively notched flipper, as well as a whitish patch, that appears to match one seen on video of the attack.

The finding, reported Tuesday, gave no solace to Petaluma resident Dane Monell, who, with friend Kevin Loughman, filmed the remarkable marine encounter Saturday, when a mother gray whale and her calf were attacked again and again by killer whales off the central Sonoma Coast.

“To watch the event was so, kind of, horrific,” Monell said Tuesday.

Such incidents are not rare, and many West Coast orca attacks have been caught on camera. But few have been recorded at such close proximity, especially on the Sonoma Coast.

“It gave me a whole new understanding of orcas,” Loughman said. “They’re relentless. When they were on the surface, and the mother was getting her body between them and the baby, they’d go underwater and come up from below. And when she would go under to protect her baby, they would come over the top, and press it down.”

A screen grab from their video and other stills of the young male whale that came ashore at South Salmon Creek Beach on Monday appeared to resolve the short-lived mystery. It could have been otherwise, however, as the calf’s body was pulled back out by the waves Monday before an expert could examine it.

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