KODIAK - Two dead gray whales have been found in Alaska, raising the whale death toll in the state so far this year to seven, officials said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the two whale deaths near Kodiak, The Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Tuesday.
NOAA has declared an “unusual mortality event” for the eastern North Pacific gray whale population and launched an investigation into the cause.
[Spike in gray whale deaths, including several in Alaska, triggers federal investigation into ‘unusual mortality event’]
A dead gray whale was spotted last week floating and later beached in Kodiak Island’s Portage Bay, officials said.
The whale was about 30 feet long and there was evidence it had been preyed upon by killer whales, said Alaska Regional Health Specialist and Data Manager Kate Savage.
The whale was in a state of advanced decomposition, Savage said.
During an aerial survey Friday, another dead gray whale was seen floating on the northern side of Aiaktalik Island near Kodiak Island, officials said.
The eastern North Pacific gray whale population that migrates from Mexico to the Arctic each summer was last estimated at about 27,000 animals, officials said.
More than 150 gray whale deaths have been reported this year in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. The two whale deaths in the Kodiak area bring the U.S. count to 75 as of June 6, officials said.
Many of the dead whales have been "skinny and malnourished," but a cause has not yet been determined, a NOAA official said.
NOAA Fisheries will continue to conduct coastal surveys and respond to reports made to the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline, officials said.