81 False Killer Whales Die In The Everglades After Pod Becomes Stranded
Authorities say 81 false killer whales died this weekend in the southwest Everglades after their pod became stranded in shallow water.
Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries Service said on Monday that officials are investigating why the pod swam into shallow waters near Hog Key, southeast of Everglades City. Mase said rescuers had to travel about an hour by boat to the animals, and struggled to herd them into deeper water.
"The whales that were beached were scattered and spread out all along the shoreline and deeply embedded in some of the mangroves," she said.
Mase said rescuers euthanized nine of the animals.
Despite their name, false killer whales are a type of endangered dolphin, according to the NOAA website. NMFS reported there were about 95 false killer whales in the pod that was stranded, ranging in age from calves to adults. As of Monday afternoon, NMFS reported one false killer whale had been seen alive and about 13 were unaccounted for.
"This is our largest mass stranding of this species that has ever occurred in Florida," Mase said.
Authorities know of two previous strandings of false killer whales in Florida. Twenty-eight of the animals were stranded in Key West in 1986, and 40 were stranded in Cedar Key in 1989.
Mase said investigators are performing necropsies on the dead false killer whales to determine why they became stranded. It’s possible the false killer whales followed a dolphin or a pod leader too close to shore, or that there was a sonar signal that caused them to become disoriented.