MIAMI (AP) — Authorities found a fifth dead pilot whale and two more beached Tuesday on a sandbar off the southwest coast of Florida, even as the U.S. Coast Guard reopened boat traffic in the area.
On Monday, two whales died and two others were euthanized after beaching themselves south of Lover's Key near Fort Myers. The fifth whale was found dead Tuesday morning about seven 7 miles (11 kilometers) to the south.
Blair Mase, a regional stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, said necropsies will be performed on the dead whales. She said the two beached whales were listless and appeared thin and dehydrated.
In December, more than 50 pilot whales stranded in Everglades National Park. Several died.
Farther south, officials had been monitoring another two dozen pilot whales off the coast of Collier County, but Mase said those whales were last seen about 2 miles (three kilometers) offshore Monday, a sign that they were not in immediate danger. She said the local sheriff's aerial team would monitor their path.
Pilot whales live in deep water and usually make their home at least 20 miles off the coast of Florida, so when they swim inland it's usually because they are suffering from some kind of toxicity or disease, Mase said. Generally, these whales travel in pods of a couple dozen or more and tend to follow one or two pod leaders, or navigators.
"They have a very tight-knit social structure, which helps them survive normally, but if two swim in to shore, the others will follow," she said.
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Original headline: 8 pilot whales found dead off Florida coast
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