Beached Whale Euthanized In Florida

A beached whale was euthanized near Tampa, Florida. The 32-foot sperm whale was stranded on the beach and would not have survived. Veterinarians from the University of Florida sedated the large whale before administering the lethal medication.

Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said sperm whales are rare along the Florida coast. They said the whale was probably in distress due to illness.

As reported by The Tampa Tribune, the veterinarians used a 6-foot needle to euthanize the beached whale. Biologist Erin Fougeres said the needle looks “large and scary,” but the decision was “a very humane thing to do,” as the whale could not have survived on its own.

The scientists said the whale was emaciated, indicating it was ill for some time. If they had returned it to deeper water, it likely would have beached itself in another location.

The beached whale’s carcass was removed from the shore for a necropsy. The examination will help scientists determine whether the whale died from natural causes or pollution.

Sperm whales are easily identified, as they have large prominent heads. Their heads are filled with a substance called spermaceti, which is believed to assist with buoyancy.

As reported by National Geographic, the whales can reach lengths of 59 feet and weigh up to 45 tons. They are currently listed as an endangered species.

The large whales usually travel in groups called pods. They often dive to depths of 3,280 feet as they search for food. The toothed whales can eat up to one ton of fish and squid each day.

Sperm whales were prominent in the 18th and 19th century during the whaling boom. The whales were sought for their oil and ambergris. Ambergris, which is found in the whales’ stomach, was used as an ingredient in perfumes, incense, and medications.

Herman Melville immortalized an albino sperm whale in the novel Moby Dick.

The last time a beached sperm whale was found in the Tampa area was 2007. A necropsy revealed that it died of natural causes.

[Image via Flickr]

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