Marine Laboratory staff and interns assisted The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and aquarium with the stranding of five pilot whales on a Florida beach.
REDINGTON BEACH — Beachgoers watched dozens of residents and volunteers Monday attempting to rescue five beached pilot whales at Redington Beach west of St. Petersburg.
A pilot whale has a distinct rounded head with a slight beak an up-curved mouthline and can weigh up to three tons. They display intelligence equal to the bottlenose dolphin and are members of the dolphin family, according to the American Cetacean Society.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and The Clearwater Aquarium led efforts to help the animals, while the Sarasota Mote Strandings Investigations Program sent staff and interns to assist, according to Mote spokeswoman Stephannie Kettle.
Randall Wells from the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program at Mote also responded to assist with satellite tagging if possible, Kettle said
Tents were erected over the whales to shield them from the sun until they could be freed.
It is unknown how the highly social whales became beached. Dolphins and whales sometimes enter shallow water when they are sick.
Kim Amendola, a spokeswoman at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said two of the whales were lifted out of the water by dozens of residents and volunteers and taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium rehabilitation facility in Tarpon Springs. Three others were to be transported offshore by FWC and Clearwater Aquarium staff and released.
Hundreds of people surrounded the beach during the rescue operation.