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Rescue flotilla tries to save 41 stranded whales in Florida

Source: Reuters - Thu, 5 Dec 2013 03:15 PM
Author: Reuters
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MIAMI, Dec 5 (Reuters) - A flotilla of would-be rescuers sailed to the Florida Everglades on Thursday to try to coax 41 stranded pilot whales out to sea, despite low expectations that the animals would survive.

Ten whales have died since fishermen discovered that the pod had beached in a remote part of the Everglades National Park along the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

The remaining whales were swimming freely in shallow water near shore, resisting efforts to herd them into deeper water.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said 31 people in 15 boats headed to the site on Thursday morning to resume rescue efforts that had been suspended at nightfall.

The Coast Guard joined in, supplementing teams from NOAA, the National Park Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local police.

"We're providing air support and keeping track of the whales," Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said.

A Coast Guard cutter crew was also enforcing a safety zone to protect the whales and keep sightseers away.

"A lot of people may have good intentions of helping them and do more harm than good," Doss said.

Pilot whales live in tightly cohesive groups and typically will not leave ailing or dead members behind. They are a deep-water species that forages on squid, octopus and fish.

Biologists said survival rates for such strandings are low.

"Most mass whale strandings don't have happy endings," NOAA cautioned on Twitter. (Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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