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Whale dies after stranding on Juno Beach

Posted at 3:09 PM, Nov 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 06:35:30-05

The whale that beached itself near the Juno Beach Pier Wednesday afternoon died after being sedated during the rescue.

"It’s a sad day for us because we don’t like seeing the marine mammals in our environment die," said Wendy Marks, a biological scientist with Harbor Branch's marine mammal team.

Marks said it was a very sick female sperm whale, which was likely only a few months old.

"Unfortunately, this calf was on its own when it stranded," she said. "When that happens with these guys, they are usually in a pretty weakened condition when they come up on the beach.”

The rescue effort all started around 1 p.m. when the neonate sperm whale stranded itself onto Juno Beach, just south of the pier.

The whale was alive at that time and more than a dozen rescuers from Harbor Branch, FWC, Marine Animal Rescue Society and Loggerhead Marinelife Center rushed out to rescue it. They kept it wet with towels and shaded it with a canopy.

As a crowd of people on the beach and the pier watched, the rescuers worked to move the whale up the beach.

They sedated her to calm her down because of the stressful situation.

Marks said they decided they were going to euthanize her to end her suffering, but she ended up dying from the sedation alone before they could do that.

"This was a very sick animal that needed its mother and in this case it didn’t have its mother," Marks said.

Marks said the mother of the calf was never spotted nearby or reported.

The young whale was pulled up the beach after it died and loaded onto a Harbor Branch Marine Mammal Rescue truck. The whale weighs more than 1,500 pounds, so it took a large effort to move it.

Harbor Branch will do a full necropsy now to find out more about why the whale beached itself and died.