Whale dies after washing ashore south of Vero Beach

VERO BEACH, Fla. - A 9-foot whale washed up on the beach south of Vero Beach Wednesday and died about 11:20 a.m.

Scientists from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute were called to the scene. No other whales were seen in the area, which is about two miles south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge

The whale appeared to be a pygmy sperm whale, according to scientists.

When Indian River County Sheriff's Deputy Jean Rosali arrived on the scene, the whale was barely alive. She and two others tried shoving the whale, estimated to weigh between 750 and 950 pounds, back in the water.

"I couldn't have shoved harder," the deputy said. "It struggled" but they couldn't move the whale out of a depression in the sand.

She said her efforts were about more than her job.

"It is part of being a human being. Why would you want anything to suffer?"

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute scientists Juli Goldstein and Steve McCulloch examined the dead whale and said an exam will have to be done to determine the cause of death. One usual cause is heart disease, Goldstein said.

The death doesn't appear to be related to an unusual number of deaths of dolphins along the southeastern United States since the summer, they said. Those deaths are largely attributed to the morbilli virus that is similar to distemper in dogs and cats.

Scientists plan to bury the whale on the beach.

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