15-foot, deep-sea whale euthanized after washing up on Flagler County beach
By Christopher Cann
A deep sea whale had to be euthanized Friday evening hours after it had washed ashore on a Flagler County beach.
The 15-foot beaked whale became stranded around 2 p.m. at Gamble Rogers Park, said Teresa Jablonski, a research scientist with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. She said the whale, which was a female, “languished in the surf” as it came on the beach and was back in the waves multiple times.
Eventually, it was surrounded by a crowd of beach-goers, shading and pouring buckets of water over the mammal.
Within an hour, volunteers with the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute were at the scene along with park staff, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and members of other agencies, Jablonski said.
The whale, however, could not be saved. It was chemically euthanized on the beach around 7 p.m.
Jablonski said the particular species, the Gervais’ Beaked Whale, “are not known to survive in human care.” She could not estimate its age with any confidence but said it “may have been a juvenile because she hadn’t reached full size.”
Little is known about the Gervais’ Beaked Whale because their deep-sea habitat makes them difficult to study, Jablonski said.
They appear to be found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and they strand “relatively frequently in the North Atlantic, especially along Florida’s coast,” according to the National Audubon Society.
The whale was taken by truck to SeaWorld Orlando. On Saturday, a necropsy was performed to find out why the animal stranded.
Researchers will look at all the animal’s organs; send samples to a pathologist to find out if it suffered from any diseases; collect blood and skin samples for genetics and examine its stomach contents.
Stranded animals provide an opportunity for scientists to learn about their life history and their biology,” Jablonski said.
In January, 21-foot orca whale died after it washed up on the shore of another Flagler County beach. “When an animal strands on the beach its because they’re sick or dying; it’s not generally by mistake,” said Jablonski. “That’s why we always ask the public to not push them back into the water … call right away and keep the animal shaded.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asks that people who see an injured or stranded animal to call their local stranding network. The phone number for the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline is (877) 942-5343.
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