Beached pygmy sperm whale on Treasure Coast

The whale was euthanized Wednesday

STUART, Fla. - A pygmy sperm whale beached itself near Stuart Beach on Wednesday morning, prompting experts to look into whether the incident is somehow connected to hundreds of other recent beachings along the United States eastern seaboard.

The waves crashed onto the beach next to the lifeless body of the 450 pound, 8 foot long whale as dozens of bystanders looked on.

"When needed, we're there," said Steve McCullough, Program Director of Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

"We immediately mobilized our equipment, our teams and our resources and headed in that direction," he said.

By about 7:15 a.m., beach visitors were trying help marine experts save the mammal, but it could not be done. The whale was euthanized.

"We can't be sure exactly why this one stranded," said one marine expert. "But there is an unusual mortality event going on with whales and dolphins."

McCullouch said that over 900 of these mammals have beached themselves from New England to south Florida since this summer.

"The common thread with the unusual mortality event is a virus." McCullouch likened the morbillivirus to distemper in dogs. In whales and dolphins, however, it often leads to death.

A necropsy on the pygmy sperm whale is set to be completed in the coming days. It may provide clues about the whale's life and death.

"These opportunities, these stranding events are treasure troves of scientific information for scientists and researchers," said McCullouch.

Video of the attempts to save the whale was posted to YouTube.

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