FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. — Beach-goers in Flagler Beach, Florida were astonished to see a 15-foot whale wash ashore on Friday afternoon.
According to representatives of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute who responded, the species is known as a “beaked whale.”
The mammal was found alive, but Dr. Stacy DiRocco, the SeaWorld senior veterinarian who responded to the scene at Gamble Rogers Park, said beaked whales are not good candidates for rehabilitation. At the recommendation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the whale was euthanized.
“It’s my responsibility as a veterinarian to make this as peaceful, respectful and humane as possible,” DiRocco said, adding that the euthanizing went “extraordinarily well. She basically went to sleep and it took effect very quickly.”
Biologists, volunteers keep whale comfortable
Around 15 people, both biologists from the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and local volunteers, worked to keep the whale comfortable for hours before she was euthanized. A crowd of people gathered at the beach and offered to help move the mammal, which was eventually placed into a large sling to help it get ashore.
DiRocco said a full necropsy will be performed, giving researchers and biologists first-hand information they wouldn’t normally have. Pathologists will be able to examine its tissues and internal organs so they can better understand what happened and how the animal ended up stranded.
What is a beaked whale?
Not much is known about beaked whales because of their deep-sea habitat, reclusive behavior, and apparent scarcity, according to researchers. They are also known to be amazing divers.
“The beaching of a single, live animal is usually the result of sickness or injury,” according to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. “Bad weather, old age, navigation errors, and hunting too close to shore also contribute to beachings.”
In January, a 21-foot orca died after beaching itself in Palm Coast, and officials from NOAA said it was the first orca stranding ever recorded in the Southeast.