The youngest of four young pilot whales rescued from a mass beach stranding on Sept. 1 in St. Lucie County died unexpectedly at a SeaWorld rehabilitation facility in Orlando.
It could take a month to determine the cause of the death on Monday, said Steve McCullogh, with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in northern St. Lucie County. The infant "died unexpectedly of complications." Last week, it had problems bottle feeding.
The three others "are fine and responding well" to care, McCullogh said Tuesday. They are being rehabilitated in two circular pools off limits to the public at SeaWorld.
The whales are the only ones that survived out of 22 sickly whales, of all ages, that beached themselves at Avalon State Park Beach in northern St. Lucie County. The four survivors were taken to Harbor Branch's marine mammal rescue center for initial medical care before being transferred to Orlando, McCullogh said.
The three remaining whales are bring weened off feeding tubes and are eating fish and squid, he said.
Officials of the National Marine Fisheries Service and others will ultimately decide whether they should be returned to the ocean. The three are short-finned pilot whales that can grow to weigh 1 to 4 tons.