UPDATE: 4 of 5 Stranded Whales Euthanized Despite Rescue Attempts

The whales being treated on the beach Tuesday. Courtesy of IFAW

UPDATED 4:55 PM Nov. 30, 2022

WELLFLEET – One unaccounted for pilot whale remains in the Wellfleet Bay area despite rescue efforts by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Brian Sharp, Director of Marine Mammal Rescue & Research at IFAW, said 6 whales were originally stranded, but 1 calf died early Tuesday and 4 had to be euthanized by veterinarians Wednesday due to quickly deteriorating health. 

The whales had been successfully refloated with the high tide Tuesday night, but failed to return to the open ocean.

“No matter what efforts we made to try to convince them to go the other way and try to herd them back out, they just went further into Wellfleet Bay and re-stranded after dark,” said Sharp. 

Sharp said this rescue has been challenging since the start, due to the large size of pilot whales preventing traditional rescue methods. 

He added that the decision to put down the animals was carefully considered.

“These animals are suffering from stress and shock. They’re feeling the effects of gravity really for the first time—the largest of these animals we estimated the weight was close to 4,000 pounds,” said Sharp. 

Any residents who spot a stranded marine animal are urged to contact IFAW at 508 743 9548.

The original story can be found below:

EASTHAM – Four pilot whales are stranded close to shore north of Sunken Meadow in Eastham, prompting a response by rescue experts with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. 

Brian Sharp, Director of Marine Mammal Rescue & Research at IFAW, said traditional rescue methods won’t cut it for the whales given their size, so their attempts to refloat them rely on the tide.

“Some of these animals are very large. The largest animal is almost 4,000 lbs., so almost 2 tons,” said Sharp in a statement from IFAW.

“We’re doing health assessments on all of the animals, providing supportive care, giving IV fluids to help combat the effects of shock from stranding and we’re looking at options to help refloat these animals.”

Six whales were initially spotted Monday night, but one calf died and another animal was successfully refloated out to sea with high tide Tuesday afternoon. While the remaining four animals were also refloated, they eventually re-stranded. 

Refloating efforts Tuesday night were put on pause as the sun went down and exhaustion set in for the rescuers. 

“The five pilot whales swam off well in one direction together, but the reality is that we cannot celebrate a success yet this evening. One animal is now offshore, but the others did not follow. We will keep an eye on them tomorrow and evaluate next steps, ” said Misty Niemeyer, stranding coordinator with IFAW, in the statement.

Niemeyer emphasized the danger such large animals pose for rescuers if careful precautions are not made. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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