A couple visiting Gold Beach were strolling along the shore near Ireland’s Rustic Lodge Monday morning when they noticed a whale that had beached itself.

“It was alive when the first call came in (to the police),” said Gold Beach Police Chief Dixon Andrews. “You could see its tail flapping on the video. It’s fairly unique for this type of whale; it’s a once in 10-years occurrence. It’s really unique.”

The animal, identified as a pygmy sperm whale, died shortly after the call was made for help. Firefighters used heavy equipment to haul the animal from the waterline. Scientists from Oregon State University’s Marine Science Center in Newport traveled down the coast Monday evening to examine the whale and take tissue samples to determine how it died.

Pygmy sperm whales are one of three species of toothed whales in that family. They’re not often sighted at sea, so most of what is known about them comes from examinations when they become stranded.

Pygmy and dwarf sperm whales are similar to great sperm whales, but they have teeth in only their lower jaw, according to the American Cetacean Society.

The 11-foot whale is large for its species, as most grow to about 10 feet and weigh about 900 pounds.