Officials urge caution near dead whale in Turnagain Arm

Published: May. 28, 2019 at 12:56 PM AKDT
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Over the Memorial Day Weekend, the carcass of a stranded gray whale became a temporary tourist stop along Turnagain Arm, drawing large crowds.

Officials are warning anyone who plans on getting a closer look at the whale to exercise extreme caution. Verena Gill with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told KTUU that the plan is to leave the whale's body where it is, just south of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

While the sight of a decomposing whale might be tempting to some, Gill warns that collecting soft parts of the whale, including baleen, skin, or tissue, is illegal unless specifically permitted by NOAA.

Parts of the whale may be harvested for Alaska Native subsistence purposes but this whale was dead for some time before it ever reached shore. According to Gill, the remains have been determined safe for scavengers but are likely no longer suitable for human consumption.

Legal trouble isn't the only risk for people who visit the whale. Dave Battle, with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game says that area has large populations of both black and brown bears. He suggests steering clear of the area for the time being.

"If people are going to see the whale, they certainly need to practice general bear safety," he said, "Approach cautiously and carry bear spray or another deterrent.You have no way of knowing what's on the other side of the carcass."

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