2011-12-30 "Klamath River: Whale's death blamed on infection" from "Associated Press" newswire
Klamath, Del Norte County — Klamath, Del Norte County -- The wayward gray whale that died last summer after swimming from the sea into the Klamath River and attracting hundreds of well-wishers along the way suffered from a fungal skin infection caused by the river's freshwater, scientists said.
Sarah Wilkin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told the Times-Standard of Eureka that the mother whale's skin was weakened by her lengthy stay in the freshwater river, which allowed the fungus to get into her body.
The whale, called MaMa by locals, garnered national media attention when she entered the river with her calf on June 24. The pair were migrating north with other gray whales when they made their unexpected foray upriver.
Three weeks later, the calf made it back to the Pacific Ocean, but the mother whale stayed behind.
It was the end of a story that captivated many of the 800 people who live in the small coastal town. People crowded on a highway bridge over the river to see and photograph the whale. Some even waded into the river to serenade the creature.
MaMa died before dawn on Aug. 16 after beaching itself on a sandbar in the river. The whale was buried by members of the Yurok Tribe along the riverbank.
A baby gray whale swims with its mother in the Klamath River in July.
Credit: Ashala Tylor