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June 19, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Gray whale makes its way out of shallow Burley Lagoon

 A young gray whale attracted the attention of a number of people as it cruised the waters of Burley Lagoon near the Purdy Bridge in Pierce County Wednesday morning. (Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

A young gray whale attracted the attention of a number of people as it cruised the waters of Burley Lagoon near the Purdy Bridge in Pierce County Wednesday morning. (Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

A gray whale that generated concern of onlookers on shore has successfully made its way out of the shallow waters of Burley Lagoon, near Purdy.

Although a whale expert says the animal was probably never trapped in the lagoon, as some observers feared, the juvenile whale, perhaps about 25 feet long, does appear to be emaciated and may be injured.

John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research said it’s not unusual to see gray whales in Puget Sound and off Whidbey Island in the spring and summer, but seldom would they make it to Burley Lagoon, one of he farthest reaches of Puget Sound.

Calambokidis said the whale would probably have to swim about 200 miles to get back to the open ocean, but would not have to go nearly that far to get back to typical gray-whale feeding territory.

The whale is probably about a year old, appears thinner than normal and has a large patch of whale lice, which could have formed on an injury, he said.

Although the whales make an impressive sight when they come close to shore, Calambokidis said it’s not unusual for them to work shallow waters in search of food.

He said there are about 20,000 gray whales in the Northeastern Pacific, and the great majority head to Alaskan waters in the summer, but several hundred spend the summer in the Pacific Northwest, including areas around Puget Sound.

 

Comments | More in Environment, General news | Topics: Burley Lagoon, Pierce County, Puget Sound

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