Oregon beach fin whale decomposition makes 'super educational' but sad spectacle

 It is not yet known what caused the endangered fin whale's death, but people may be surprised to see the large marine mammal as it disintegrates on an Oregon beach.

"Even though it's sad, it's also very educational," Tiffany Boothe, assistant manager of the Seaside Aquarium, said of the rare sighting Thursday. He said it is only the second dead fin whale Oregon has seen in about 30 years.

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Just don't touch it, he said, because it may carry diseases that can spread to humans and pets.

“Plus, it stinks,” she said. "I don't know how to describe it. It smells like a dead whale."

The 46-foot male whale washed ashore Monday morning at Sunset Beach State Park, south of Warrenton. He was entangled in the rope.

But before officers could examine the rope and type of fishing gear, someone took it off and took it with them, Boothe said.

"It was a well-intentioned person, because the animal was still in the sea and seemed alive," he said. "And so they thought they were helping sort out a living animal."

Although the rope entanglement was serious, the whale was not in it for very long and did not die from it. Boothe said it will take several weeks for the results of an autopsy performed Tuesday to determine what caused the weakened whale's death.

Boothe said the whales would decompose naturally, providing "a huge nutrient boost to the local environment", providing food for small amphibians such as eagles and crows.

Letting it disintegrate shows a deeper understanding of what to do in these situations than in 1970 when officials opted to use dynamite to blow up a dead whale that washed ashore in southern Oregon.

The exploding whale incident won't happen now, Boothe said, noting how that solution sent huge chunks of whale carcasses flying into the sky, and even broke the roof of a car.

Boothe recommends viewing the decomposed whales at low tide and with a four-wheel drive vehicle.

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