Many whales dead after mass stranding near Florida Everglades - WNCN: News, Weather

Many whales dead after mass stranding near Florida Everglades

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Pilot whales stranded near Everglades on Dec. 4, 2013. Pilot whales stranded near Everglades on Dec. 4, 2013.
Federal officials say 10 of the dozens of whales stranded in Florida's Everglades National Park are now dead.
   
Blair Mase, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says four of the pilot whales were euthanized Wednesday. Six others had already died.
   
Rescuers have been trying to coax the whales into deeper waters with little success. Nearly four dozen whales had been stranded in about 3 feet of water.
    
The stranding coordinator for this area is Clearwater Marine Aquarium's Abby Stone.  Stone says a number of reasons could account for the whales stranding themselves, including climate, navigation or issues with their sonar.

"And it's also possible that one or a number individuals in the group are sick or injured. And because they're so closely knit and they're social structure is so strong, sometimes they'll just follow those animals right into the beach," said Stone. 

The victims of this stranded may yield clues about why they do it.

"We can learn a lot of information by studying the dead animals and taking tissue samples and we can get a good idea if there was disease that might be involved," said Stone.

NOAA Marine Animal Scientist Blair Mase says the pod is very far from where they would normally be. They live in the Gulf of Mexico, but they are very far away from their deep water habitat.  Mase says this would make it difficult for NOAA rescuers to "push" the whales back out to sea.

"If we did push the healthy ones out, if they see one dead one they will come back again," said Mase.

Related story: Beached sperm whale near John's Pass euthanized

The whales were first spotted on Tuesday afternoon about 30 miles from the town of Flamingo in Monroe county.

The last mass stranding in the Everglades was in 1995. In general, pilot whales are susceptible to strandings because they are so tight knit. Pilot whales are a a "protected" species.

A few months ago a beached sperm whale was found near Madeira Beach in Pinellas County.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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