All but three of the pod of stranded pilot whales that swam too close to shore at St. Simons Island, Georgia, made it back to the sea alive.
Georgia Beachgoers Help Rescue Pod of Stranded Pilot Whales
A beach on St. Simons Island, Georgia, became the scene of a dramatic rescue operation on Tuesday, after up to 50 pilot whales swam into dangerously shallow waters. Beachgoers who had been enjoying pleasant evening sprang into action, dousing the pilot whales with water and pushing them deeper into the ocean, despite shark sightings in the area. — reported EcoWatch
Experts still investigating why the animals rushed to shore in “exceedingly rare” event
They’re going to die if they don’t get help," McCoy can be heard saying in the 15-minute video. "All these whales have been washed up to shore and there’s already been one whale that’s been attacked by a shark. It is so sad."
The rescue effort worked paid off, as only three of the beached whales perished, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). And, unbeknown to the volunteers, their strategy was exactly right.
"While stranding is a known natural occurrence, the only thing we can do is to continue pushing them out to sea," said Clay George, a biologist for Georgia’s DNR.
Harbor pilots spotted a pod of more than 40 whales in the Brunswick shipping channel on Wednesday morning. Conservationists from the National Marine Mammal Foundation then monitored the whales from a boat to make sure they stayed in deep waters and far offshore, said DNR spokesman Rick Lavender, as USA Today reported.
Crews had also flown a helicopter above the area, which is about 90 miles south of Savannah, and determined no other whales were stranded.
Pilot whales are essentially large dolphins, and can grow to 24 feet in length and weigh 6,600 pounds (3000kg).
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. George said they were still investigating why the animals rushed to shore, an event he called “exceedingly rare in Georgia.”
“We’re cautiously optimistic that the group dodged a bullet, and that they’re now on their way to deeper water,” added Mr. George.
In the necropsy of the three whales that didn’t make it, researchers will look for ingested plastic or evidence of plastic netting. They will also look for signs of an acoustic disturbance, like bombs or sonars, that could have caused one or more of the animals to swim toward land, as the New York Times reported.
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