Whales are common along the coast of California. Blue whales, finback whales, grey whales, and humpback whales are commonly spotted along whale-watching trips. But Stejneger's beaked whales? Those are a rare find in the area -- and so, when one washed ashore Tuesday night in Venice Beach, it caught everyone off guard.
"It was a female, and she was covered with cookie cutter shark bites... It is VERY rare and almost never seen alive," the environmental non-profit Heal the Bay posted on its Facebook page shortly after spotting the whale on the beach between Venice Pier and Marina del Rey.
"We helped get it out of the water, and it was still alive," Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue told City News Service. "I was kind of shocked because we couldn't identify it."
This species, known for it's saber-like teeth, typically sticks to more frigid subarctic waters of the Bering Sea or off the coast of Japan.
"We were very lucky," Nick Fash, an educator who works at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, told the Los Angeles Times. "These whales are incredibly rare and almost never seen in the wild."
Male Stejneger's beaked whales have "tusk-like teeth that jut out from a portion of their lower jaws," according to the Times. This carcass does not have the famous tusk-like teeth because in females and juveniles, the teeth lie beneath a layer of gum tissue.
Fisk added that it is basically unheard of to find a well-preserved carcass so far south -- these whales usually don't venture further south than Northern California.
The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum's Stranding Recovery Team quickly loaded the carcass of the 14-foot-long female whale onto a flat-bed truck and whisked it away for a necropsy.
Scientists there are expecting a necropsy to reveal more about how this particular whale died, as well as the diet of the elusive species. They are known to feed on small-deep water fish and squid that live in deep waters.
"This is the best," Fash said. "[Previous finds] aren't anything like this. This is a treat."