Florida wildlife officials — with the help of marine biologists, the Coast Guard, and beachgoers — this week rescued five beached pilot whales on Redington Beach.
The whales were first spotted around 6:30 a.m. Monday by a beachgoer who said the sea creatures we “splashing in the shallows” and ejecting water from their blowholes, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium veterinarians, along with officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Coast Guard members, a number of volunteers and marine biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, worked to rescue the whales.
After protecting the whales from the sun with shades, rescuers used canvas slings to hoist the animals out of the water and relocate them. According to the Tampa Bay Times, three of the whales were taken by boats back out to sea, while the remaining two were taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for “medical treatment and testing.” They will be returned to sea if they are determined to be healthy.
“It was really hard work but it was so great to see people who didn’t even know each other come together and work together to help,” Thomas Nuhfer, a 27-year-old student from Clearwater who was on the scene, told the newspaper.
“Something is obviously wrong here. It could be that one whale is sick and beached and the others followed, or they could all be sick,” Clearwater Marine Aquarium spokesperson Carlee Wendell told the Tampa Bay Times of why the whales may have swum so far inland.
The news comes after at least 50 dead pilot whales were found on a remote beach in Iceland.