Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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Rare Pygmy Sperm Whale Dies in Northern California

Pygmy Sperm Whale

(Photo : Pygmy Sperm Whale

A beached pygmy sperm whale recently discovered at Point Reyes National Seashore in  California appeared to have been stranded for hours.

The Marine Mammal Center received reports of the beached whale close to Abbotts Lagoon but didn't get confirmation it was still alive hours later. By then, it was already too dark.

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Marine experts weren't able to get to the remote beach before sundown. On Jan. 9, a response team from the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center found the whale dead.

Laura Sherr, Marine Mammal Center spokesperson, said it was a very difficult situation.

"We're committed to marine mammals and their humane treatment. We want to do everything we can, but we have to put human safety first. We just can't go out at this point to do anything for the animal," she added.

According to the Marine Mammal Center, the male whale is young but not a dependent calf. It eyes were very sunken, which suggested it was sick longer than it was stranded.

The 5 foot-long whale had red marks on its body, which biologists said were the result of bruising that can happen when cetaceans are out of the water.

Pygmy sperm whales, which grow to be about 11 feet long, spend most of their time in the open ocean.

Shelbi Stoudt, stranding and data manager at the center, said whale strandings are generally rare. In particular, pygmy sperm whales aren't usually spotted on shore, dead or alive, because they reside deep below the surface of the water.

"Their bodies are not designed to be on solid surfaces. When they are on solid surfaces for extended time, that can do damage to their internal organs," Stoudt explained.

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