REDINGTON BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – Three of five whales that beached themselves in Pinellas County Monday morning are being released back into the Gulf of Mexico. Two will be taken in for further care at a Clearwater Aquarium Facility in Tarpon Springs.
Several agencies responded to the five distressed whales on Redington Beach Monday morning. Carlee Wendell from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium says all five are pilot whales.
“They have come to shore, they don’t do that unless something is wrong. However, these are social animals that live in groups of up to 10 to 100. So it’s a possibility that if one of them is sick, the others would follow,” she explained. “So we’re trying to assess their body condition, give them general health assessments and figure out what’s going on with them.”
The two smaller whales were loaded into a truck Monday afternoon so they could be taken to a larger pool in Tarpon Springs. The other three were loaded into boats and released in the Gulf.
It’s not clear exactly how long the whales were stranded for, but Wendell says rescue crews know it happened early Monday morning.
“We’ve been out here since about 6:30, 7 o’clock just trying to get our hands on the situation,” she said.
Wendell says whales can suffer from sunburn, so tents were set up in the water to protect them from the sun’s rays. Cool towels were also being used to protect them.
“We do our best to make sure they are comfortable as possible in what is, of course, an uncomfortable situation for them,” she said. “We do provide shade to them and thankfully we did have a lot of beachgoers who were willing to lend us their tents for the day.”
Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office were also at Redington Beach helping the aquarium team.
“They’re currently making a decision about what will be best for the animals,” Wendell said. “A number of factors go into that and essentially they will make the call as to where these whales go, what happens to them. We’ve got the best team out there that we could.”
The three whales released in the Gulf of Mexico were released five miles offshore with tracking monitors and the hope is to reunite them with the two whales brought in.