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Dozens of Pilot whales stranded in Everglades National Park

Posted: December 5, 2013 - 1:08am

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. — Nearly four dozen pilot whales were stranded in shallow water in a remote area of Florida’s Everglades National Park, and six have died, federal officials said Wednesday.

Forty-six whales were swimming in about 3 feet of salt water, said Blair Mase, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Volunteers are keeping an eye on the whales, though no one is getting in the water for safety reasons, Mase said.

“This scenario is very challenging because of where they are,” Mase said. Officials typically have access to heavy equipment to rescue stranded whales, but the area these whales are stuck in is accessible only by boat.

The pilot whales were spotted Tuesday in a remote area of the park near Highland Beach. Officials don’t know how long they’ve been stranded or how they got there. The whales usually swim together in large groups and tend to follow a dominant male leader, so it’s not uncommon for multiple whales to get stranded at once.

“It’s potentially confused, maybe agitated or tired after a stressful experience,” said Everglades National Park spokeswoman Linda Friar.

At least one other group of whales has stranded in the park in the past 10 years.

“It’s not uncommon,” she said. “But it’s not something that happens a lot.”

Mase said the whales are known to inhabit deep water, “so they are very out of their home range.”

Park officials said the whales became stranded in the worst place in the park for rescue efforts because the area is so shallow that it’s difficult to get the mammals enough water to propel them back to sea. A team of biologists was still assessing the whales Wednesday.

“We think we can rescue some,” Friar said.

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