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PHOTOS: Rare Saber-Toothed Whale Washes Ashore near Marina del Rey

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.

Courtesy Heal the Bay's Facebook page.
Courtesy Heal the Bay's Facebook page.

By City News Service

A rare whale that washed ashore in Venice Beach was being examined Wednesday 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.

CEM October 16, 2013 at 10:02 PM
It makes me sad to see that woman pointing with a big smile on her face as this creature is dying.
DD October 17, 2013 at 11:06 AM
@CEM- The whale was already dead at that point. This is a once in a lifetime sighting. It's not in celebration of the whale's death. Its that we can now study the whale carcass in hopes of learning more about the creature and how to protect it. Give the girl a break!
CEM October 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM
@DD-Not sure how you happen to know for a fact that the whale was already dead as that fact is not stated anywhere in the article. I just found it somewhat disturbing as I read about all the shark bites and the pain it must have been in. I fully appreciate the research opportunity given as a result of this. I was only commenting on my own personal reaction to that particular photo. If you read the comments on Facebook you will see that I wasn't the only one to have this reaction. Give ME a break!
Kimberly Peterson Bessey October 19, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Well I KNOW the whale was already dead! What is really sad is that you would accuse her of being happy while it was dying without knowing any facts other than she has a partial smile in this photo. That is her normal everyday face-she is a bright happy person who devotes her life to teaching and protecting the ocean. And what do you do besides accuse those who are trying to do the most good?

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