Property owner is responsible for disposing whale remains

ScienceBiologyConservationEcosystemsKCPQNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationJim Ryan

Beachfront property owner Jim Ryan had a whale of a problem yesterday when a grey whale beached itself near his waterfront home in Bremerton.

Ryan had an even bigger problem when he realized that - as property owner - disposing the whale's remains was his responsibility.

"Maybe a seal or something is one thing, but a whale is something else," Ryan told Q13 Fox News reporter John Hopperstad.

While Ryan was contemplating how to tow the five-ton animal off his property, marine biologists began carving the mamal, attempting to determine what led to its death.

According to Dyanna Lambourn, a marine biologist, "it's kind of early to say," but added her team is "finding some abnormal things in the liver."

When the whale washed ashore at Erlands Point near Silverdale, researchers said it was extremely emaciated.

The whale was dead less than 24 hours before the necropsy began. It is unusual for biologists to have such a fresh animal to study.

Chuck Crawford, a local veterinarian, worked hard to get a sample of the whale's brain to see if parasites may have been the cause.

In order to get all the organ samples, scientists had to cut the whale open.  This was a bit of a shock to observers, including Jacob Jones.

"I started to get a little grossed out ... but then I got a little used to seeing that stuff," said Jones. "Kind of hard to get past the smell though."

Even with the animal in smaller pieces, the dilema remained for Ryan: how to get rid of the whale carcass?

According to Lambourn, Ryan could "tow it out and sink it," or "bury it."

And then a third option, compliments of the Squamish Tribe which agreed move the whale and place its skeleton in its cultural center. 

That was a relief for Ryan.

Although Ryan's disposal issues remain, researchers from Cascadia Research and the NOAA Marine Fisheries Service continue trying to determine what caused a gray whale to wash up on Bremerton beach and die Wednesday morning.

It will likely be a few days before the whale is moved and a cause of death is determined.

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