25 pilot whales found dead in Florida near Kice Island
Navy contacted to determine whether sonar testing could have contributed to pilot whales death
Mass occurrences of beached pilot whales “unusual”
On Thursday, 25 dead pilot whales were discovered near Kice Island which is located approximately 16 miles south of Naples. Boaters reported the tragedy to officials who contacted Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Biologists estimated the pilot whales had been beached for approximately 24 hours.
According to biologists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, or NOAA, these pilot whales are from the same group that was stranded on Sunday inside Gordon Pass south of the Port Royal community.
“A major cold front came through, and it’s suspected the animals pushed ashore at that time,” states Blair Mase, marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA.
According to Blair Mase, pilot whales live in pods of 30 to 50, and it is possible that these 25 were from a larger group that had been working its way toward the coast.
Although pilot whales are the most common to beach themselves, according to Blair Mase the recent mass beaching occurrences are abnormal. On December 3rd, a mass stranding of pilot whales resulted in the death of at least 10, and 41 others beached. According to reports, these pilot whales appeared “confused.” Pathology results are not yet in.
As with the previous stranding, necropsies on the pilot whales will commence on Friday in order to determine any potential reasoning behind this second occurrence. Two necropsies completed on pilot whales from Lovers Key were unsuccessful in determining cause of death. The reports did reveal that the two were underweight and reportedly hadn’t eaten in several days.
“They were not looking very responsive when they were first reported on Sunday. They were just drifting along. If they hadn’t stranded at this particular location I think they would have stranded somewhere. A lot of them are underweight and thin because they’ve been out of the range for quite a while,” states Blair Mase of the pilot whales found Thursday.
The Navy has been contacted to determine whether any sonar testing had been conducted recently in the Gulf of Mexico. Sonar testing disorients whales, and could have potentially contributed to this group of pilot whales moving to shallow waters. The Navy is expected to respond soon.