Naples Daily News Photo
NOAA biologists report that 46 pilot whales are alive and swimming free off Highland Beach, where six dead whales are beached.
That is more live whales than had been found Tuesday, said NOAA marina mammal stranding coordinator Blair Mase Guthrie.
Pilot whales, which form tight-knit social structures, are the most common whale species for mass strandings in Florida, she said.
"When one is sick or in distress, the other ones typically will stay close by," she said.
Biologists are uncertain how long the whales have been stranded, and even the live whales likely are malnourished, she said.
Veterinarians are considering options to remove the dead whales to encourage the live whales to return to their home ranges in deep waters offshore.
The live whales likely are malnourished and some might have to be euthanized to shorten their suffering, Mase Guthrie said.
"The outcome is very uncertain for the live whales," she said.