Miami-Dade County

More whales from stranded pod found dead in the Florida Keys

Eleven more whales believed to be part of a pod that was stranded in the Everglades last week were found dead in the Florida Keys, national wildlife officials said.

The dead whales were spotted Sunday afternoon on Snipe Point, about six miles north of Sugarloaf Key, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official Blair Mase.

The death brings to 22 the total number of whales that died.

The pod of 51 short-finned pilot whales was first spotted by a fishing guide Tuesday in the shallow waters off a remote section of the Everglades National Park. The species is one of the most commonly involved in mass stranding.

Mase says that veterinary teams will try to determine whether a disease was a factor in the deaths.

Officials do not know the status of the remaining whales. The marine mammals were last seen alive on December 6th.

A day earlier, wildlife experts were “cautiously hopeful” as dozens of short-finned pilot whales stranded Tuesday seemed to be heading back to deeper waters. But after aerial observation, 20 of the whales were spotted moving closer toward shore, raising a red flag to experts.

The animals, Mase said, appeared to be moving slower and were disorganized.

“There may be something going on that we don’t understand,” he said. “This point in time herding may not be the best interest of the animal.”

Mase said that the whales slowing down could have been a sign that the animals were sick or exhausted from stranding.

“At some point,” Mase said, “we have to stand back and let nature take its course.”