Dozens Of Pilot Whales Stranded Near Everglades National Park

A pod of pilot whales is stranded in shallow water near Florida's Everglades National Park. Officials said the pod included nearly 50 whales. Although six have died, dozens remain stranded in water that is less than four feet deep.

Volunteers are prohibited from entering the water without boats due to safety concerns. However, rescue crews with small boats hope to lead the whales out to sea during high tide. Their immediate concern is keeping the whales alive while they wait.

Officials are unsure how long the whales have been stranded, as they were discovered in a remote area near Highland Beach in Monroe County. On Tuesday, rangers discovered nine whales stuck on the shore. With the help of several volunteers, five were returned to the water. Unfortunately four of the whales were already dead.

Everglades National Park ranger Linda Friar said she believes they are a pod of pilot whales. However, they will not be positively identified until necropsies are complete.

As reported by CBS Miami, Friar said it is important that the whales remain cool and wet until they can be safely moved. Transporting stranded whales usually requires heavy equipment. Unfortunately, the remote area is quite difficult to reach.

NBC Miami reports that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working together to assess the situation.

Blair Mase with the NOAA said the rescue will difficult if not impossible. Unfortunately, the pilot whales are stranded quite far from their natural habitat. He said returning them to deeper water may not help, as whales often return the site and become stranded again.

Mase said it is important to "be realistic about the options." He explained that "euthanasia might be the most humane option" for the whales.

Pilot whales travel in tightly knit groups and sometimes become stranded as a pod. Friar hopes the necropsies will help explain why the whales traveled so far from their home.

The last mass pilot whale stranding was recorded in 1995.

[Image via Wikimedia]