MARTIN COUNTY, Fla — A necropsy for a pygmy sperm whale that officials encountered Wednesday in the Jupiter Island area is expected to be performed Friday, an official said Thursday.
The 8- to 10-foot mammal reached or nearly reached shore Wednesday morning before officials attached a rope to it and pulled it farther offshore. Officials later planned to bring the whale in likely to be euthanized, but the whale, which was in poor condition, died.
"We can learn so much information by conducting a necropsy, especially on animals like this that we know when it died," said Blair Mase, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is the stranding coordinator for the southeast United States.
Mase said the necropsy is performed to help determine why the whale died and what caused it to come ashore.
"These animals are very prone to heart disease," she said. "We're suspecting that it has this heart disease because they come in so often with that."
She said the whale is in Fort Pierce at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
Mase said at the same time the whale was encountered along Jupiter Island, a mother and calf came ashore in St. Augustine. The mother also was in poor condition. Beachgoers pushed both back in the water, and as of Thursday morning the calf was on the beach with no sign of the mother.
Mase said the pygmy sperm whale is the second-most common species that strands in Florida. They live in deep waters and aren't a "social species."
"They do very poor in a rehab setting," Mase said.
Mase said a series of tests will be conducted and that the whale's cause of death might not be known for a couple of weeks.