Rescuers are trying to help dozens of pilot whales stranded on a beach in a remote area of the Everglades National Park in Florida.
The whales, four of whom have already died, were first sighted about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday near Highland Beach. By Wednesday morning at least four boats with 15 people were heading to the beach area where about 10 whales were on shore and more than two dozen whales were stuck in shallow water, park officials told reporters.
“This area of the park is probably the most challenging for something like this. When the tide goes out, there's hundreds of yards of very shallow shoals,” spokeswoman Linda Friar told the Reuters news service. The rescue effort could take several days, she said.
Short-finned pilot whales typically travel in pods of 25 to 30. Adults weigh 2,200 to 6,600 pounds and males average 18 feet long.
It is not unusual for the creatures to be stranded.
“Pilot whales are common stranders. They tend to do this,” Friar said. When rescued, she said, “they tend to rebeach themselves.”
The rescue strategy is to keep the whales alive during low tide and then use the rising waters of high tide to get the creatures to swim back to deeper, and safer waters. Six whales have been rescued so far.
“The thing about these whales, as the day heats up they'll have to keep them wet,” she said.
It was unknown why the pod had traveled an estimated 30 miles from their natural habitat.
The last such mass stranding happened in 1995.