Whales Euthanized After Washing Ashore

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Three whales that washed ashore on South Hutchinson Island in Florida had to be euthanized after scientists determined the animals were too sick to be saved.

Martin County fire and rescue officials spent more than an hour Wednesday evening trying to keep the melon-headed whales in the surf near Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, a historic landmark on the barrier island east of Stuart.

The three whales, each about 7 feet long, appeared thin and malnourished, and at least one appeared to have been bitten by a shark.

Dr. Greg Bossart, director of marine mammal research and conservation at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, said the animals likely belong to the same pod as a dead melon-headed whale that washed ashore Wednesday morning in Vero Beach.

It was the first time he had seen the species swim ashore in Florida.

Rescuers worked to keep the whales from being thrashed around in the crashing surf and draped sheets on them to keep them wet before deciding the animals needed to be euthanized.

Scientists planned necropsies on the whales for Thursday in hopes of determining what brought them ashore.

“We don’t have a clue why they came ashore,” Bossart said, adding that offshore environmental degradation could be to blame. “The more we see these rare species coming ashore, the more I think it points to that.”

A necropsy of the whale found in Vero Beach showed it had atrophied adrenal glands and stomach ulcers, and hadn’t eaten in weeks, obvious signs of stress, Bossart said.

Source: ABC News