LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A rare whale that washed ashore in Venice Beach was being examined today at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
The roughly 13 1/2-foot Stejneger’s beaked whale, sometimes called a saber-toothed whale because of its sharp teeth, was still alive and covered in shark bites when it washed up Tuesday night between the Venice Pier and Marina del Rey, said Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue.
“We helped get it out of the water, and it was still alive,” he said. “I was kind of shocked because we couldn’t identify it.”
The whale, shaped somewhat like a dolphin, is typically found in the Bering Sea or in the frigid waters off Japan. How it got so far south is a mystery.
“It is odd,” Wallerstein said, adding that he was more of a marine mammal wrangler than expert. “I had never seen one.”
A necropsy being done at the Natural History Museum should tell marine biologist why the whale died beyond the shark bites and what it had been eating. They are known to be deep divers that feed on fish and squid.
The whales are so rare, even in their normal habitats, that marine biologists relish a chance to study a specimen.
Nick Fash, an education specialist at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, was so excited when he got word of the whale Tuesday night that he got on his bicycle and pedaled to Venice as fast as he could.
“These whales are incredibly rare and almost never seen in the wild,” Fash told the Los Angeles Times.
Wallerstein said marine creatures are sometimes found far from their natural homes. Stejneger’s beaked whales are believed to migrate south during the winter, he said, but not this far south.
The large teeth on males are noticeable, but the teeth of females are hidden in the gums.