• Scientists puzzled by what's killing Puget Sound porpoises


    WHIDBEY ISLAND, Washington - Scientists in the Puget Sound region are baffled as an alarming number of porpoises have washed up on local beaches this year.

    The most recent death was discovered Thursday on a Whidbey Island beach. That brought the death toll to seven this year. Five others were found on Whidbey and one was found on Camano Island.

    There was only one reported porpoise death in the North Puget Sound last year.

    In May, a young calf washed up just a few feet from where Bonnie McKee lives on Bush Point.

    “It looked like it was a baby, maybe stillborn, but we don’t know,” she said. “It was sad.”

    A fisherman called biologists, but it was too late to gather much evidence.

    Sandy Dupbernell, a Stranding Network investigator, said one of the porpoises died from a fungal infection, but the other deaths are mysteries.

    To make matters worse, her group just lost their grant. She’s freezing tissue and blood samples in case the group can find testing money, which could help them find answers.

    “It does seem to be alarming that we have that many in half a year,” Dupbernell said.

    She said the fungal infection that killed one porpoise can make humans sick, so she’s warning anyone who sees a dead animal on shore to stay away and give wildlife officials a call.

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