6 Beached Pilot Whales Die, Dozens More Stranded in Shallow Water

Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 03:39 PM

By Robin Farmer

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Dozens of short-finned pilot whales have beached themselves or become stranded in shallow water along Florida’s shoreline off a remote area of Everglades National Park.

As of Wednesday afternoon, six whales had died and several others were pushed back in the water, CNN reported.

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About 45 whales were trapped in "miles and miles" of shallow water, Blair Mase, a marine mammal scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told CNN.

"These are very, very social animals," Phillip Clapham, director of the whale research program at the National Marine Laboratory in Seattle told CNN. "They remain together as family units. If the lead animal gets in trouble, probably everyone else is going to follow them and be in trouble."

The animals can weigh a ton apiece so rescuers will be challenged.

"It's a largely, but not entirely, hopeless undertaking," Clapham said.

Short-finned pilot whales are typically found in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They have a history of re-beaching themselves and are no strangers to Everglades National Park.

Everglades park spokeswoman Linda Friar told CBS News that rangers learned about the whales Tuesday after someone called to report four beached whales. Rangers instead found nine beached whales, including four dead ones. Five were pushed back back into the ocean.

Saving the rest while figuring out what’s causing the problem is the goal, said Friar. The whales are in a remote area of the park. Once experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, park employees, and volunteers reach the whales, they will keep them cool and wet until the high tide. At that point, the whales may swim back out to deeper waters, she said.

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