Biologists monitor pilot whales off SW Florida

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FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Two pilot whales died and two were euthanized after beaching themselves in southwest Florida, wildlife officials said Monday.

The whales were among about four dozen of the mammals seen swimming in shallow waters Sunday and Monday.

In Lee County, a handful of the whales stranded near shore, while more than a dozen others swam nearby, said Kim Amendola of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service. An additional 12 whales were spotted farther offshore earlier in the morning.

Necropsies will be performed on the four dead whales, said NOAA regional stranding coordinator Blair Mase.

The surviving whales are listless and emaciated, and many wouldn’t react if a boat approached them, Mase said.

“They all look in really bad shape,” she said.

Two dozen of the pilot whales were being monitored off Collier County. A few temporarily beached themselves Sunday before swimming out with the tides.

They also seemed to be in poor shape.

“They’re definitely out of their home range, and they look like they’ve been out of their home range for quite a while,” Mase said.

Pilot whales typically swim in deeper waters farther offshore. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the whales to swim so close to land.

The pilot whale is a common species involved in mass strandings. In early December, more than 50 pilot whales stranded in Everglades National Park. Seven died and four were euthanized before the rest apparently swam back into deeper waters.

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