FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – A 13-foot female short-finned pilot whale became stranded on the beach Wednesday at Fort Clinch State Park, in Nassau County, according to officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Onlookers rushed in to try to keep the whale alive, but wildlife officials said the whale was apparently sick and had to be taken to the Jacksonville Zoo to be euthanized.
Officials said dozens of people tried to keep water on the whale and had wet towels draped over it, trying to keep it cool. But officials said the whale's health was too compromised.
Volunteers helped move the whale onto a stretcher so it could be transported to the zoo. The whale, which weighed over 1,000 pounds, will have a necropsy and other tests done on it to determine what illness caused it to strand itself.
“By looking at the animal, it is underweight. It is compromised,” FWC spokeswoman Nadia Gordon said. “Volunteers were wonderful standing by on scene. The information they were giving us, when it is real time, it is very helpful because the parks can verify for us.”
“I hate to see any animal be euthanized,” volunteer Gale Jameyson said. “It’s a sad day for everyone.”
Volunteers said the whale came ashore just south of the fishing pier at Fort Clinch State Park. They said that after calling for help, they tried to get as many people as they could to the beach to help out.
“There was a lot of people already around, putting wet towels on it. And they were waiting for the state to come to remove the whale,” Jameyson said. “It's very disappointing, because they are such a beautiful animal.”
Officials said that the volunteers did the right thing, trying to assist the whale.
Gordon said it's not uncommon for pilot whales to become stranded, usually in large numbers.
FWC officials said that they have warned marine officials both north and south of Fernandina Beach to be on the lookout. Because this whale was sick, they are worried there could be others in the ocean that are sick and other whales could beach themselves. They want people to be on the lookout.