Rare whale found dead on beach with shark bites

A RARE Gray's beaked whale littered with shark bites was found washed up on Seven Mile Beach just metres from where a surfer was bitten by a shark a week ago.

Byron Bay surfer Jebez Reitman, 35, had a large chunk of flesh ripped from his back when he was bitten about dawn on February 8.

National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman Lawrence Orel said initial reports were that two whales found beached, but alive, on Saturday were pushed back into the ocean by the public.

Mr Orel said he believed it was coincidental the whale was found where Mr Reitman was attacked by a shark.

He wasn't surprised the whale was found stranded and dead on Sunday.

"Often when you have a stranded animal like this if they are pushed back to sea it is very likely that they will re-strand," he said.

Beaked whales were not commonly found close to shore, Mr Orel said, as their habitat was deeper southern oceanic waters.

Gray's beaked whales can grow to between five and six metres long and weigh about 1100kg.

When born their young are about 2.4m long.

"It's unusual to find a beaked whale stranded; it's more common for dolphins or humpback whales to strand."

The cause of the stranding was undetermined.

"Without a major injury like a major shark bite or a boat strike it's often very difficult to identify the exact cause.

"This particular individual may have been old and diseased and as it got weaker the currents have brought it in. It did have reports of lots of cookie cutter shark bites which they do accumulate over time but they wouldn't have been fatal."

A Ballina council spokesman confirmed the whale was buried on Seven Mile Beach on Sunday.

Mr Orel said all was not lost for researchers. "Whales are very difficult to study because they are in the open ocean and hard to locate.

"Its very likely there will be considerable scientific interest in this animal."

"The animal gets buried and the organisms in the sand will go about doing their thing and in 18 months to two years time you end up with a nice clean skeleton that is able to be recovered and used by the scientific community."

If you find a stranded whale or dolphin on a beach call ORRCA on 02 9415 3333.

Topics:  editors picks seven mile beach surfing whale

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