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NOAA says dead gray whale in Cook Inlet is likely the one stranded near Portage

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: June 24
  • Published June 23

A stranded gray whale found in Cook Inlet near the mouth of the Theodore River is believed to be the same whale that was in the Twentymile River in June 2020.(Photo by Natalie Rouse / Alaska Veterinary Pathology Service)

A large gray whale found dead in west Cook Inlet this month is likely the same whale that was stranded in Twentymile River near Portage for several days starting in late May, NOAA Fisheries said in a statement Tuesday.

On June 12, the agency received a report that a dead gray whale had been spotted from the air at the mouth of the Theodore River, west of the Susitna River, according to the federal agency.

Because of challenging currents and tides in Turnagain Arm, it’s improbable that two gray whales could become stranded in upper Cook Inlet during the same time period, so it is likely the same whale that appeared in Twentymile River, fisheries biologist Barbara Mahoney said in the 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.

The gray whale that died was male, according to NOAA Fisheries.

A young gray whale who was stuck in Twentymile River for a week was able to swim back into the Turnagain Arm during high tide on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. (Courtesy of Julie Speegle via NOAA)

The gray whale was spotted in Twentymile River near Girdwood when its stranding was first reported on Memorial Day, and it stayed in the river for over a week before swimming back into Turnagain Arm, according to the agency. But the whale “never made it down Cook Inlet back to the Gulf of Alaska,” NOAA Fisheries said.

So far this year, 12 gray whales have died in Alaska, according to NOAA Fisheries.

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