TORREY PINES STATE BEACH, Calif.—A crew from Sea World worked through the early morning Monday to rescue a baby sperm whale after it came ashore at Torrey Pines State Beach.
The square-faced gray-brown colored mammal turned up at around 9:30 p.m. Sunday night near the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park, SeaWorld Curator of Mammals Keith Yip said.
""We identified it as a neonate sperm whale, an estimated length of about 18 feet, an estimated weight of about 3,000 lbs," Yip said.
The whale appeared sick and had rolled around in the rocky surf, scraping and scratching its skin and drawing blood, Yip said. He said it was the first baby sperm whale he had seen in his 25 years in San Diego.
About 20 rescuers from SeaWorld's stranding response team took part in the rescue operation.
"What we decided to do in the best interests of the animal was swim it off the beach, which we successfully did," Yip said. "We had two options," said SeaWorld's Mike Scarpuzzi, "try and get it out to ocean or bring it to SeaWorld." But sperm whales grow to be very large, and it would be difficult to manage. A full grown sperm whale can grow to be 120,000 pounds and 60 feet long.
SeaWorld veterinarian Hendrik Nollens drew blood from the baby whale and then gave it antibiotic injections. Then, at about 1 a.m., the Sea World crew pushed the whale one-quarter mile out to sea.
The veterinarian said the baby whale beached itself because it was lost or sick, but it appeared well nourished.
"He did have a pretty good blubber layer, so he was in a decent body condition. There's about two inches or so of blubber, so I think he's got a chance," Nollens said.
SeaWorld's stranding response team has rescued, rehabilitated and released about 175 animals this year, Yip said.
It's not unusual to spot gray whales along the coast, but it's rare to see sperm whales because they are deep sea dwellers. "They're the largest species of toothe whales," said Tom Demere with the Natural History Museum.