LOS ANGELES (AP) — The reeking carcass of a dead humpback whale was towed back out to sea some 24 hours after washing up at a popular Los Angeles County beach Friday.
Authorities used boats pulling ropes attached to the tail to pull it off the sand during the evening high tide, taking the whale far out to sea and avoiding a foul stench and grim scene on the beach as Fourth of July weekend crowds began arriving.
Authorities had earlier attempted the procedure at midday, with a bulldozer pushing, but it was unsuccessful because of the low tide.
The huge whale washed onto Dockweiler Beach, a long stretch of sand near the west end of Los Angeles International Airport, just before 8 p.m. Thursday and holiday beachgoers began arriving in the morning.
Lifeguards posted yellow caution tape to keep people away and biologists took samples to determine what caused the death of the humpback, an endangered species. Beachgoers watching from a distance covered their noses.
Tail markings were compared with a photo database and found that the same whale had been spotted three times previously off Southern California between June and August of last year by whale watchers who gave it the nickname Wally, said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a whale research associate with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
At the time of the prior sightings the humpback was covered with whale lice, which usually means a whale is in poor physical condition, but it was also actively feeding and breaching, she said.
Schulman-Janiger said she noticed healed entanglement scars on its tail indicating that in the past it been snarled in some sort of fishing line. The carcass was in relatively good condition which meant the whale could have died as recently as Thursday morning, she said.
The whale was about 46 feet long and at least 15 years old, meaning it had reached maturity, said Justin Greenman, stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.