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11-Foot Long Whale Beached on Fernandina Beach Dies

10:40 AM, Jun 25, 2010   |    comments
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FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. -- The whale that was stranded just north of the Sandy Bottoms Bar and Grill on Wednesday evening has died.

At least two officers were at the scene for several hours Wednesday night, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife officers, and more than a dozen concerned citizens.

Officials said the whale was taken to Jacksonville Zoo, but died in transport.

Thursday morning, FWC Biologist Ryan Berger drove the whale to the University of Florida's College of Veterinarian Medicine in Gainesville.

A cause of death is unclear; a necropsy was performed Thursday.  However, test results may take four to six weeks.

Dr. Mike Walsh with UF said they may never know what caused the animal to die - some cases are just like that.

It was either a pygmy sperm or dwarf sperm whale. Researchers said both whales are extremely similar and a test will need to be done to determine the correct species.

Berger measured the whale Thursday morning. He said it was an adult whale, weighing in at over 290 pounds, and was 11 feet long.

Onlookers said they first noticed the whale in distress offshore at about 7 p.m. Witnesses said it appeared to jump in the shallow water off the beach.

Eventually, they said the whale ended up washing up on shore, and Fernandina Beach Police and FWC officials were called.

Many frantically threw water on the whale.

Around 10 p.m., FWC officials managed to slip the whale into a sling, and onto a stretcher, where it was then lifted by several people onto the bed of a pick-up truck.

Witnesses said the whale was so large that about 4 feet of its body hung out of the pick-up truck. The extent of its injuries is unknown.

Officials reminded people that if they see a beached whale, first call the FWC hotline, 1-888- 404-3922.  An FWC biologist will be put in route. Then tend to the whale. 

Berger also said he understands people want to help a beached whale, but pushing it back into the water will "only prolong the inevitable. If you push it back out, it will swim and more than likely it will swim north or south and wash up again. In this case, they pushed it out three times and it swam directly back to them."

He said if a whale is beaching itself, it is likely ill.

UF researchers said this is the second most common type of whale to beach itself in the Southeast U.S.

Research is underway to determine why this kind of deep-water whale beaches itself so much.

First Coast News

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