Tragedy as more dead dolphins wash up in Florida… just as stranded pilot whales manage to swim free from the Everglades

Sad sight: This was one of three dolphins that turned up dead along Flagler County beaches since last weekend

Sad sight: This was one of three dolphins that turned up dead along Flagler County beaches since last weekend

Dead bottlenose dolphins are continuing to wash up along beaches along Florida’s east coast.

(SOURCE)  Since Sunday, officials say the Georgia Aquarium’s Conservation Field Station has picked up three dead dolphins along Flagler County beaches.

Capt. Tammy Marris, of Volusia Beach Safety and Ocean Rescue says a 3-foot dolphin was found in Wilbur-by-the-Sea Monday.

Last month, at least seven dolphins were recovered on Volusia County beaches and another four on beaches in nearby Flagler County.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say morbillivirus is likely causing the deaths, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. A team of researchers is investigating.

The measles-like virus affects the marine mammals’ lungs and brain, causing skin infections, pneumonia and brain disorders, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The dolphins can infect one another when they come up for air and breathe together.

The average number of strandings between New York and Florida from July 1 to December 1 is 113. This year 936 strandings have been reported.

Since January, more than 1,200 dolphins have stranded in that area.

Experts say it is impossible to vaccinate the animals for morbillivirus, according to ClickOrlando, and they expect to find more dead dolphins in the coming months.

No end in sight: This year 936 strandings have been reported, and scientists expect to continue finding dead dolphins

No end in sight: This year 936 strandings have been reported, and scientists expect to continue finding dead dolphins

But there was also some good news this week for marine creatures that have found themselves stranded on Florida shores.

Pods of 35 pilot whales slowly swam Thursday into deeper water off Florida’s southwest coast, raising optimism that the strandings of whales on Everglades National Park beaches may soon end on a positive note.

NOAA fisheries official Blair Mase said this afternoon that the three whale pods were nine miles north of their original location and continuing to move offshore.

They were in 18 feet of water about six miles offshore, still several miles from the 900-to-1,000 foot depths they usually call home, Mase said.

‘They are in deeper water, and they are getting closer to their normal home range,’ Mase said. ‘Even though we are hopeful, this situation could go either way. There is a chance they could come back inshore again.’

Silver lining: A U.S. Coast Guard inflatable boat guides a group of stranded short-finned pilot whales to deeper waters in Everglades National Park, Florida December 5

Silver lining: A U.S. Coast Guard inflatable boat guides a group of stranded short-finned pilot whales to deeper waters in Everglades National Park, Florida December 5

Majestic creatures: A pod of pilot whales that were stranded in the Florida Everglades swam out into deeper waters while rescuers tried to chase the rest out to sea by banging on pipes and revving their boat engines

Majestic creatures: A pod of pilot whales that were stranded in the Florida Everglades swam out into deeper waters while rescuers tried to chase the rest out to sea by banging on pipes and revving their boat engines

                  Dead pilot whales lie on the beach in the Florida Everglades in Florida in this December 4                            Dead pilot whales lie on the beach in the Florida Everglades in Florida in this December 4

Heartbreaking: Dead pilot whales lie on the beach in the Florida Everglades

Mase said the total of dead whales has reached 11, with five still unaccounted for. She said wildlife workers were surprised Thursday morning to discover that most of the live whales had moved out of the shallows on their own sometime during the night.

By early evening Thursday, most crews had left the scene, but a Coast Guard cutter was to remain stationed with the whales overnight Thursday.

About 15 vessels carrying about 35 personnel were involved in the effort to track the whales, which were first spotted Tuesday in extremely shallow water in the Everglades park south of Naples.

Wildlife workers had planned to try using noises such as banging on pipes and revving boat engines to herd the whales out to the open ocean. But that turned out to be unnecessary, and the workers simply used positioning of the boats to prevent any of the whales from turning away from the open sea, Mase said.

Teams from NOAA, the National Park Service, the Coast Guard and state wildlife agencies were working to prevent any more whales from stranding. The animals had not been cooperating Wednesday, when most were in about 3 feet of water.

Aerials of pilot whales out of dangerous shallow waters

The total of dead whales has reached 11, among them 4 that had to be euthanized

Casualties: The total of dead whales has reached 11, among them 4 that had to be euthanized

Cycle of life: Vultures and dead pilot whales that beached themselves and became stranded in Everglades National Park, are seen on the southwestern Florida coast December 5

Circle of life: Vultures and dead pilot whales that beached themselves and became stranded in Everglades National Park, are seen on the southwestern Florida coast December 5

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