This headless chicken and other animals and animal parts washed up Thursday on a Berkeley beach. Photo: Susi Jensen
This headless chicken and other animals and animal parts washed up Thursday on a Berkeley beach. Photo: Susi Jensen

A woman on a walk along the beach in Berkeley with her dog on Thursday came across two decapitated chickens, two skinned mammal legs with cloven hooves, and several dead shorebirds.

Susi Jensen, a Berkeley writer, said it isn’t unusual to see a dead carcass on the beach. But she described the number and kind of animal parts she saw Thursday morning as “unexpected.”

“The shoreline is imperfect, but we enjoy it for what it is,” she said. “This time it was a little grosser than normal.”

Jensen was walking her golden retriever, Luna, on the beach along the San Francisco Bay Trail. The trail runs along West Frontage Road between University and Ashby avenues in Berkeley and continues into Emeryville. 

(The trail was designed as a “ring around the bay” and spans a corridor of nearly 340 miles, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments. The project is still underway.)

Jensen said she was walking with Luna shortly after 10 a.m. when she began to notice the dead birds along the tideline on part of the trail not far from Ashby. The carcasses were mixed in with the usual debris, such as sticks and small rocks and leaves. The beach is a favorite walking spot for the pair because Luna enjoys swimming in the bay, Jensen added.

These shorebirds and several other animals and animal parts washed up Thursday on a Berkeley beach. Photo: Susi Jensen

“There were more carcasses than normal,” said Jensen, who has been walking in the area for at least five years. “Every now and then I’ll see one bird carcass. But then I saw three in a row.”

Seeing the decapitated birds was a bit disconcerting, she said.

Two skinned legs and several other animals and animal parts washed up Thursday in Berkeley. Photo: Susi Jensen

There were also two skinned mammal legs, which had a cloven hoof and looked to Jensen to be from a deer or possibly a goat. In addition, she saw at least one rib that appeared to be from a larger mammal.

Jensen’s main concern, she said, was keeping Luna away from the carcasses in case they had some kind of disease.

She said she doesn’t normally walk the beach when the tide is so high — to give Luna more space to run around — and wondered if perhaps that might account in some way for what had washed up.

“It’s possible this is just a tidal issue,” she said. “It could be just a natural occurrence.”

Jensen also spoke with some fisherman who said they weren’t noticing anything unusual as far as the day’s activity in the water. They expressed a bit of concern to her about the carcasses, she said, because they had heard on the news about “something hurting the birds” around the bay.

In January, according to news reports, hundreds of dead birds were linked to “mystery goo” in the eastern San Francisco Bay. The Contra Costa Times reported that 200 birds had died, and another 315 had been saved and were being rehabilitated. Those birds were found near the San Leandro Marina, Hayward Regional Shoreline and the Harbor Bay Isle area of Alameda.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said said shortly after publication Thursday that Berkeley’s Animal Care Services unit received no reports about birds in the city having been harmed by the goo.

He said the beach where the carcasses were found Thursday is under the East Bay Regional Park District’s jurisdiction, but added that the city is also trying to learn more.

He said Animal Care Services had not heard about the discovery prior to the alert from Berkeleyside.

“They called Emeryville to see if they knew more, and they haven’t received any calls about it either,” he said.

Carolyn Jones, spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District, said park authorities are looking into the matter. Berkeleyside will update this post when more information is provided.

Update, 4 p.m. Jones said the Park District sent rangers out to look for the carcasses, but had no luck finding them. They combed the beaches from Albany down to Emeryville and were unable to locate them.

“They didn’t know of anything that happened recently that might have caused it,” she added.

The rangers also said it would be “highly unusual” to find a deer on that side of the freeway. But, as they were unable to find the carcasses, they could only speculate.

“We’re always really appreciative of the public calling these things in,” Jones said Thursday afternoon. “We’re grateful that our park users are so observant and care so much about the wildlife out there.”

Read more about animals in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage. This story was updated shortly after publication to include a comment from the city of Berkeley.

Two boar heads found in separate locations in Berkeley (01.21.15)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...