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Gray whale beaches itself, dies at Doheny State Park

May 14, 2010 |  5:51 pm

Gray whale wanders into Dana Point harbor

An ailing gray whale that had spent several days in or near Dana Point Harbor beached itself and died Friday afternoon at Doheny State Park, officials said.

The 30-ton marine mammal, nicknamed Lilly even though its sex wasn't known, was seen throughout the day moving sluggishly near the shore. The whale washed up about 5 p.m. near San Juan Creek, said Deputy Brian Stanley of the Dana Point Harbor Patrol.

"It was looking bad all day. But it still came up to breathe every half hour or so,'' Stanley said.

Marine mammal experts are on the way to the site to inspect the animal, Stanley said. The carcass probably will  be towed out to sea, he said.

"We will let nature take its course. It will decompose at sea and other animals can feed off of it,'' Stanley said.

Lilly was first spotted earlier this week in the waters off Dana Point, moving in a way that indicated the whale was in distress. On Wednesday, marine handlers got close enough to cut yards of fish netting off the animal and it appeared to rally afterward, swimming back to the open ocean.

But the emaciated cetacean returned to harbor waters Thursday, worrying marine experts. The whale's behavior deteriorated further Friday, culminating in its death.

--Catherine Saillant

Photo: The emaciated, 30-ton gray whale surfaces in the waters off Dana Point.
Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5