(AP) — A gray whale found dead in Washington state's Puget Sound had been feeding on shrimp and also had some debris, including a golf ball, in its stomach, but scientists don't know what killed the animal.
The stomach examination Monday found the shrimp, woody debris, algae, pieces of rope and plastic, the golf ball and some flat spongy material, NOAA Fisheries said.
The garbage was minimal and not the cause of death, which remains under investigation with tissue tests, spokesman Brian Gorman said. It's common for whales to pick up debris near urban areas because they are filter feeders. There were no signs of trauma or entanglement on the whale, he said.
The carcass was spotted Sunday on the west side of Camano Island and towed to a secure location at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, about 50 miles north of Seattle for the necropsy by biologists and volunteers from Cascadia Research, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
The skeleton of the 37-foot sub adult male will be cleaned and sent to the Smithsonian Institution.