4 pilot whales originally stranded in Eastham have been euthanized, one still missing, officials say

EASTHAM, Mass. — A rescue operation was launched after several pilot whales were stranded on an Eastham beach Tuesday.

According to a spokesperson from Marine Mammal Rescue and Research, six pilot whales were spotted close to the shore of Sunken Meadow Beach Monday night. After beaching themselves overnight, one of the calves died.

Video captured the pod of whales lying helplessly out of reach of the waves.

Crews then got to work digging out the five remaining whales in preparation to move them back into the ocean when tides were more favorable Tuesday afternoon. Although the whales were deposited back in the ocean at high tide, only one whale escaped into the ocean blue. The four other whales turned back and are now lingering in the shallow waters near the shore.

“The five pilot whales swam off well in one direction together, but the reality is that we cannot celebrate a success yet this evening. One animal is now offshore, but the others did not follow. We will keep an eye on them tomorrow and evaluate next steps,” said Misty Niemeyer, stranding coordinator at International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“The team is exhausted. Large animals can be quite dangerous to work around, and it’s for our health as well as tomorrow’s continued efforts that we need to call it a day today,” added Niemeyer.

The crews are expected to resume rescue efforts on Wednesday.

According to the IFAW, because the whales have lungs and breathe air, they can survive out of the water for many hours as long as they remain properly hydrated.

Pilot whales are a rare sight on the bay side of Cape Cod. The unusual sight brought out several local residents to watch the rescue operation.

“Surreal,” said Patti Lynn. “It’s hard to describe they were just so beautiful and I was struck by the fact that they had all these people around them handling them and they were just so calm.”

Pilot whales are found in each of the Earth’s five oceans. They are not considered endangered.

According to officials, 4 of 5 remaining pilot whales originally stranded have been euthanized.

The fifth whale has not yet been located.

Officials on Wednesday say the whales “greatly declined in health and were debilitated after three days of stranding,” officials said.

“The team made the difficult decision to euthanize these animals as we knew rescue efforts at this stage were no longer going to be possible,” Director of Communications, Global Programs Stacey Hedman said in a statement. “It’s the most humane decision to make in a circumstance like this. They were in a difficult area and in tougher weather and lighting conditions as the exhaustion (for them) of this effort went on.”

Officials said they passed quickly.

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