- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 6, 2015

GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) - A necropsy is planned for a beached whale found Tuesday near Gulf Shores that had to be euthanized, wildlife officials said.

Beachgoers spotted a melon-headed whale in the surf and noticed it was struggling to swim and breathe, Noel Wingers of the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network said.

Melon-headed whales are small and resemble dolphins, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The animals can grow up to 9 feet long and weigh up to 460 pounds.

Beachgoers stabilized the whale and held its blowhole above water until marine wildlife officials arrived, Wingers said.

The mammal stranding network contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and determined that the whale needed to be euthanized, she said. Melon-headed whales typically don’t do well in rehabilitation and officials determined euthanasia was the most humane option, Wingers said.

“They’re typically an offshore species,” Wingers said. “They typically wouldn’t come onto shore unless they’re sick or injured with the intent to strand.”

The species typically swims in deep, warm tropical water where they feed on squid, fish and crustaceans, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Wildlife officials are planning to evaluate the whale beaching Wednesday, Wingers said. She added that beachgoers should never push stranded animals back into the water but should instead call a 24-hour hotline at 1-877-whale-help.

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