Biologists Monitoring Beached Pilot Whales Off SW Florida Coast

FORT MYERS BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) — About four dozen pilot whales in shallow waters off of southwest Florida are being monitored by wildlife officials.

Two of the whales died and a third will be euthanized, officials said.

A handful of the whales stranded near shore in Lee County, while more than a dozen others swam nearby, said Kim Amendola of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service.

An additional 12 whales were spotted farther offshore earlier in the morning.

Necropsies would be performed on the three beached whales, said NOAA regional stranding coordinator Blair Mase.

The remaining whales were listless and emaciated, and many wouldn’t react if a boat approached them, Mase said.

“They all look in really bad shape,” she said. She expected that more whales could die by Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, roughly two dozen other pilot whales were being monitored off Collier County. Those whales were the same pod that swam into shallow waters off Naples on Sunday, Amendola said. A few temporarily beached themselves Sunday before swimming out with the tides.

They also seemed to be in poor shape.

“They’re definitely out of their home range, and they look like they’ve been out of their home range for quite a while,” Mase said.

Pilot whales typically swim in deeper waters farther offshore. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the whales to swim so close to land.

The pilot whale is a common species involved in mass strandings. In early December, more than 50 pilot whales stranded in Everglades National Park. Seven died and four were euthanized before the rest apparently swam back into deeper waters.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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