10 Beached Whales Die in Florida While Rescuers Struggle to Save Dozens More

Pilot whales often strand themselves in large numbers, though researchers aren't sure why

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Beached Whales

National Park Service / AP

Pilot whales are stranded on a beach in a remote area of the western portion of Everglades National Park, Fla., Dec. 3, 2013.

At least 10 pilot whales that beached themselves in Florida’s Everglades National Park died Wednesday, according to federal officials. Four of the beached whales were euthanized, while another six died of natural causes, according to the Associated Press.

A team of rescuers are trying to move dozens of other whales trapped in the park’s 3-foot-deep waters. Linda Friar, a spokeswoman for the Everglades National Park, told USA Today it’s unclear if any of the whales will survive the ordeal.

The whales are believed to have arrived in the park during high tide, only to get stuck in shallow waters when the tide rolled out. While individual whales occasionally beach themselves, it’s unusual for such a large number of the water-borne mammals to get stuck in shallow waters simultaneously.

Pilot whales, however, are more susceptible to stranding themselves in large numbers. Researchers don’t agree on why, though some believe that individual whales may occasionally guide the rest of the group to dangerous shallow waters if they’re sick or disoriented.

“It could be disease, it could be environmental issues, it could be [related to] human impact,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Blair Mase told reporters regarding the cause of the whales’ mass stranding.

[Associated Press]