25 dead pilot whales found south of Marco Island

Carolina Hidalgo/Staff
Twenty-five dead pilot whales discovered along the shore of Kice Island on Jan. 23, 2014 await National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers, who will perform necropsies on Friday.

Carolina Hidalgo/Staff Twenty-five dead pilot whales discovered along the shore of Kice Island on Jan. 23, 2014 await National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers, who will perform necropsies on Friday.

Researchers perform necropsies on Pilot Whales

Biologists hope to find out why the ...

About 20 more dead pilot whales have been discovered on Kice Island in Collier County.

Amelia Tripp

About 20 more dead pilot whales have been discovered on Kice Island in Collier County.

About 20 more dead pilot whales have been discovered on Kice Island in Collier County.

Amelia Tripp

About 20 more dead pilot whales have been discovered on Kice Island in Collier County.

A Marco Island couple out shelling Thursday discovered 25 dead pilot whales on a nearby barrier island.

The discovery on Kice Island was the latest in a series of beached whale sightings around Southwest Florida. With at least 33 dead so far, researchers still don’t know why the whales have been beaching themselves and dying.

The investigation is looking at a wide range of possible causes, including military sonar. The NOAA hasn’t yet gotten an answer from the Navy on whether it was conducting exercises that could have caused the animals to come ashore.

The NOAA confirmed the 25 whales on Kice Island are the same ones that were rescued and steered out of Gordon Pass in Naples by a team of boats Sunday. Officials were able to identify the whales because they were marked with red streaks the first day they were found, said Blair Mase, a marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Southeast.

"They were originally in Naples Bay, very close to shore," Mase said. The distance between the Naples Bay and Kice Island is about 16 miles.

Several thin whales lay dead on the sand Thursday night while others floated like buoys along the shoreline. Many of them had scrapes across their thin black skin. At least six of the whales appeared to be calves.

"It’s just devastating," said Amelia Tripp, who discovered the dead whales with her husband, Bill. "You hate to see it."

The Tripps arrived at the island around 10 a.m. and found the whales around 11 a.m. Amelia Tripp said she called a friend with connections to a local environmental group, who in turn alerted officials.

"Some of them had blood coming out of their mouths and the vultures were pecking their eyes out," she said. "It was pretty grotesque."

Researchers believe the whales had been there for 24 hours before they were found. They were all dead when researchers arrived, Mase said.

Necropsies, which are like animal autopsies, will be performed on those whales today. They were probably pushed ashore by the strong seas that came with a cold front, Mase said.

The pilot whale death count in Southwest Florida has reached at least 33, between two strandings that happened over two days. The other - at New Pass near Lovers Key State Park in south Lee County - claimed eight pilot whales, four of which died on their own and another four that had to be euthanized because they were so sickly.

Researchers have completed the necropsies on all of the eight whales that died in Lee County, but why they beached themselves remains a mystery, Mase said.

"They did all have empty stomachs, which is something we were suspecting, and that’s all we really know at this point," she said.

The two groups of whales could be part of the same pod, Mase said. Pilot whales often travel in groups of 30 to 50.

If it hadn’t been for the high seas, Mase said the whales may have eventually landed somewhere else because they were looking so unresponsive on Sunday.

"They have been out of their home range for quite a while," she said.

Amelia Tripp and her husband didn’t go shelling on Wednesday, but now she regrets skipping out.

"I wish we had been there," she said. "Maybe some of them would have still been alive."

News editor Ryan Mills contributed to this report.

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Comments » 8

marco826 writes:

Sad.

MrBreeze writes:

It has to have something to do with their brains or hearing. Whales I understand are very sensitive creatures with hearing and guidence features. Why would all these whales just beach and Die? There is a cause somewhere.

WMissow writes:

Hey Konfusious, are you getting your kicks out of this as when the eagles died?

RayPray writes:

in response to MrBreeze:

It has to have something to do with their brains or hearing. Whales I understand are very sensitive creatures with hearing and guidence features. Why would all these whales just beach and Die? There is a cause somewhere.

"There is a cause somewhere."

>>> No coincidence this disaster occurred right after prime national nitwit Kinnock Bidden blowharded thru our area, promiscuously flushing every toilet on his way....

MrsT writes:

So sad. I guess I thought when they were seen off Marco on Monday that someone from the Florida Wildlife group, Coastguard or some other group would have kept track to see if they had moved further out to sea. I was surpised there was no mention of them since Monday. Just seemed to me like they would have been tracked more.

MrBreeze writes:

You think they could just guide them back out to sea. Sad to see them in that condition.

I have read strange things are happening to bees also. I have not heard much of it though in the news.

CopWatch writes:

One of the most persistent theories about the cause of whale stranding is that something disrupts the whales’ navigation system, causing them to lose their bearings, stray into shallow water, and end up on the beach.

Scientists and government researchers have linked the low-frequency and mid-frequency sonar used by military ships, such as those operated by the U.S. Navy, to several mass strandings as well as other deaths and serious injuries among whales and dolphins. Military sonar sends out intense underwater sonic waves, essentially a very loud sound, that can retain its power across hundreds of miles.

Evidence of how dangerous sonar might be for marine mammals emerged in 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas after a U.S. Navy battle group used mid-frequency sonar in the area. The Navy initially denied responsibility, but a government investigation concluded that Navy sonar caused the whale strandings.

Many beached whales in strandings associated with sonar also show evidence of physical trauma, including bleeding in their brains, ears and internal tissues. In addition, many whales stranded in areas where sonar is being used have symptoms that in humans would be considered a severe case of decompression sickness, or “the bends,” a condition that afflicts SCUBA divers who resurface too quickly after a deep dive. The implication is that sonar may be affecting the whales’ dive patterns.

Other possible causes put forth for the disruption of whale and dolphin navigation include:

weather conditions;
diseases (such as viruses, brain lesions, parasites in the ears or sinuses);
underwater seismic activity (sometimes called seaquakes);
magnetic field anomalies; and
unfamiliar underwater topography.
Despite the many theories, and growing evidence of the danger that military sonar poses for whales and dolphins worldwide, scientists have not found an answer that explains all whale and dolphin strandings. Perhaps there is no single answer.

MrBreeze writes:

That makes sense. It has to be a disruption of enviorment that is killing them all in a group not just one or two sick whales.

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