The carcass of a roughly 25-foot-long gray whale was found on a North County beach on the morning of April 10.
A beachgoer discovered the dead cetacean around 6:30 a.m. on the sand near 29th Street and Ocean Front in Del Mar, sheriff's Lt. Jenene Milakovich said.
With high tide due in the late morning, city lifeguards took advantage of the opportunity to get a public-works tractor onto the beach to push the carcass, which was in an advanced stage of decomposition, back into the sea.
Crews attached two cables to the dead whale and used a pair of inflatable rescue boats to pull it away from shore while the tractor shoved it into the surf, lifeguard supervisor Jim Lischer said.
The personnel got the carcass fully into the water about 9:30 a.m., then towed it about five miles into the ocean and set it adrift.
The hope is that the dead whale will finish decomposing at sea, aided by feeding fish, Lischer said.
Officials said they did not believe the carcass was that of a roughly 30- foot gray whale that wandered into San Diego Bay last month and cruised the harbor for nearly a month, becoming a tourist attraction and gaining the nickname Diego'' before moving on a few days ago.
Lifeguards said the carcass that washed ashore in Del Mar seemed to have been decomposing for at least a week and appeared to be the same one spotted offshore from Camp Pendleton on Thursday.
Del Mar resident Maureen Dime, who was called by a friend about the whale, walked down to the beach to capture some photos and video at about 9:10 a.m.