Biologists seek answers to death of 33 pilot whales off Florida coast

Monday, January 27, 2014 This whale was one of eight pilot whales found dead on the beach near Lover's Key State Park, south of Ft. Myers, Florida on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Wildlife officials are conducting tests to determine the cause of death. A total of 33 whales have died in the last two weeks.

The ocean holds many mysteries, but one of the most puzzling involves the unexplained death of 33 pilot whales, who swam into the shallow coves in southern Florida last week.

"Those whales should never have been in these waters," said a nearby resident of New Pass Cove, Florida. "I've lived in this area since 1950, and I've never seen anything like this before."

Fourteen whales were seen swimming in the shallow waters near Lover's Key State Park south of Ft. Myers in late January, and, despite wildlife official efforts to herd them back out to the ocean, eight were found dead on the beach. The others later turned up on Kice Island, a remote island in the 10,000 Islands south of Florida. A local resident points to the location of the dead whale in New Pass, just south of Lover's Key State Park near Ft. Myers, Florida.

At the same time, another pod of pilot whales died near Marco Island, bringing the total to 33.

A similar incident happened in the Everglades last year. The total number of pilot whale deaths in the last year is 50.

The big question is--What is causing these deaths? Spectators gather at the bridge over Lover's Key to catch a glimpse at the dead pilot whale discovered there on the beach. The waters in this area are too shallow for the whales, and no one knows why they are there.

Two whales euthanized on Monday, Jan. 13 were taken by truck to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lab in St. Petersburg for necropsies. One weighed 1,610 pounds.

According to wildlife officials, pilot whales are known to be very loyal to their pod, so, if their leader is sick or becomes disorientated, the entire pod will often follow the leader to their death.

Residents of the state are following the issue closely, but results from the necropsies may not be available for months.

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