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Wayward gray whale dies in waters off Dana Point

May 14, 2010 |  7:50 pm

Lilly the gray whale

The emaciated gray whale that has spent the last several days swimming listlessly in the Dana Point area has died. Lilly, as it had come to be called by rescuers, washed up about 5 p.m. near San Juan Creek, Deputy Brian Stanley of the Dana Point Harbor Patrol told our sister blog L.A. Now.

The whale, which was first spotted in the area Monday, was initially believed by marine biologists to be aging and possibly sick. A few days later, however, it became apparent that it was entangled in fishing nets and rope. A rescue effort was mounted to disentangle the debris, and the whale was successfully freed Wednesday afternoon. It disappeared into the sea after the last rope was severed, raising rescuers' hopes that it would continue on a migratory path north to Alaska.

Those hopes were dashed Thursday when the whale returned to Dana Point Harbor, swimming sluggishly. Marine biologists continued to monitor the situation but felt that, as Joe Cordaro of the National Marine Fisheries Service explained to the Orange County Register, "As long as it's swimming on its own power, nobody should be doing anything with it."

"I think that it pretty much just starved to death," Cordaro told the Associated Press on Friday afternoon. "What we don't know is was it suffering from any disease." He said he hopes to arrange a necropsy on Lilly's body, but it's unclear whether that will happen. A necropsy could determine both the whale's cause of death and its age, which for gray whales can only be accurately ascertained by scientists after death. 

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-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Lilly surfaces near Dana Point on May 13. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

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