JENSEN BEACH, Fla. - Several beachgoers in Jensen Beach tried to help two distressed pygmy sperm whales who had beached themselves Sunday.
Jessica Marino and Nikki Strizzi found both whales.
"We saw the mom, or the bigger whale, down the beach," said Marino. "We went to go rescue her, and she was kind of laying on the beach, trying to roll over."
That rolling is what may have caused her head injury, according to Steve McCulloch with the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution of Fort Pierce.
"Their skin is very delicate," said McCulloch. "When they roll in the surf and rough waves, they're easily bruised and cut in superficial wounds."
Strizzi said they wanted to help the animals.
"We carried the baby from about 800 feet down to the mother so they would be together," said Strizzi. "We actually calmed them down. They were really scared, they were rolling, they were thrashing their tails. When we first got them, there was blood all around them in the water."
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agents, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution biologists, Busch Wildlife officials and local veterinarians all showed up to take the whales in to Harbor Branch.
FWC Research Associate Jon Cassady said that when it comes to stranded marine animals, biologists hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
"These animals do not make it in captivity," said Cassady. "These are animals that live out and feed in 2,000 feet of water, and we just don't have facilities like that."
Another pygmy sperm whale stranded itself in Key West earlier in the day.
"The pygmy sperm whales are the second most often stranded marine animals, after bottlenose dolphins," said McCulloch. "Stranding events like this occur about once a week in Florida."
Onlookers were optimistic after the whales were taken away.
"I'm just hopeful that they'll live," said Marino. "We were worried," added Strizzi.
Cassady said when animals beach themselves, it usually means there was something wrong with them to begin with. "Unfortunately when these kind of animals go ashore, the outlook for them is not real good."
That proved to be the case. After a veterinary exam the decision was made to 'humanely euthanize' both whales.
FWC and marine experts say if you ever find a beached marine animal, do not push the animal back into the water. Immediately contact FWC dispatch at 888-404-FWCC.
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