LOS ANGELES – A dead humpback whale was stuck on a popular Los Angeles-area beach as the Fourth of July weekend got underway Friday, with visitors urged to steer clear of the huge carcass.
Small waves washed around the decomposing leviathan on Dockweiler Beach, a long stretch of sand near the west end of Los Angeles International Airport with an RV park and extensive parking that usually draws big crowds.
“Unfortunately, it’s here on the Fourth of July weekend when people want to go to the beach,” lifeguard Capt. Kenichi Haskett told KABC-TV. “We ask that people not go in the water near here because you see the fluids are seeping out of it now, and those fluids pose a hazard.”
Lifeguards posted yellow caution tape to keep beachgoers away, but some children dipped their feet into the waves nearby. The whale, estimated to be some 40 feet long, floated ashore Thursday night.
“It’s pretty sad,” said visitor Rayleen Johnson, who watched it wash in from the Pacific.
Biologists took tissue samples to determine how the animal died. Authorities planned to wait for an evening high tide that might help refloat the whale and allow it to be towed well out to sea. A bulldozer stood by to help.
North Pacific humpbacks feed along the West Coast from California to Alaska during summer, according to the Marine Mammal Center, a Sausalito-based ocean conservation organization. Although the species’ numbers are extensively depleted, humpbacks have been seen with increasing frequency off California in recent years, the center’s website said.
Humpbacks, familiar to whale watchers for their habits of breaching and slapping the water, are filter feeders that consume up to 3,000 pounds of krill, plankton and tiny fish per day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The whale that washed up is not the same one spotted earlier in the week off Southern California tangled in crab pot lines. That animal was identified as a blue whale. Efforts by a rescue crew in a small boat to cut away the line failed, and it disappeared.
California has seen a number of whales on beaches this year. A humpback carcass that appeared off Santa Cruz in May had to be towed out to sea, while a massive gray whale that ended up on San Onofre State Beach in April had to be chopped up and hauled to a landfill.
The same month, a distressed humpback was freed from crabbing gear in Monterey Bay. In March, a dead gray was removed from Torrey Pines State Beach.