CANNON BEACH — People watched in awe — and slight disgust — as researchers performed a necropsy on an adult Steller sea lion Saturday at Silver Point Beach.
The sea lion washed up dead near Haystack Rock the morning of Feb. 26 before the city decided to move the giant marine mammal south to a more remote section of the beach. Stranded animals are typically dissected quickly and quietly to avoid upsetting onlookers.
This time, Keith Chandler from the Seaside Aquarium said they decided to wait until the weekend so people attending the Coast Conference, a marine education and stewardship event, could watch for educational purposes. It so happened Debbie Duffield, a biology professor at Portland State University who regularly conducts necropsies on stranded marine mammals, was going to be in town for the conference, as well.
Duffield and volunteers from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network dissected the 8-foot long creature for tissue samples that will later be tested for research purposes and a cause of death.
“We usually get this size of sea lion wash up around here every 18 months or so,” Chandler said. “If you’re into this kind of stuff, it’s fascinating to see the anatomy of these guys.”
As of Sunday, what was left of the sea lion was buried in sand by the city. But for those who were around for his short tenure on the beach, Haystack Rock Awareness Program director Melissa Keyser said she hoped they learned something valuable.
“I think there’s a great educational opportunity here, especially as a coastal resident,” Keyser said. “We’re all educators about marine life, and this is vital knowledge to have as an educator.”