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Death of stranded baby whale not unexpected, experts say

Stranded whale reported near Juno Beach pier (Matthew Longfellow)

Experts say they are not surprised at the death of a 13-foot baby Sperm whale that beached itself near the Juno Beach Pier on Wednesday.

Biologists and conservationists familiar with the ocean environment say by the time a whale, of any age comes near shore, the animal has reached a point where survival is not likely.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Aarin Allen, a marine mammal biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Whenever a whale does come up on the beach, there is something wrong with the animal. It’s not normal behavior. Whales, especially Sperm whales, are deep diving animals.”

Beach visitors say they first spotted the whale beneath the pier.

“You could see it was struggling,” said Frank Losover, one of many who helped bring the animal to shore under supervision of a responding biologist. “We saw the blood coming from underneath, every time it was flapping its tail."

Biologists, a veterinarian and trained volunteers eventually responded, all doing their best to keep the whale comfortable.

Wendy Marks, who works for Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute near Fort Pierce, said the whale could have been as young as two months old.

Marks told the crowd gathered at the beach the baby whale was very sick and needed its mother, but got separated for some reason.

The whale was in such bad shape, according to Marks, responders made the decision to euthanize, but the whale died on its own.

“There’s probably a mom out there that’s very upset at losing her calf," said Jim Abernethy, a marine conservationist who owns a scuba business in Lake Park. “Sperm whales have babies every four to six years, and it’s usually just one. So it’s very, very traumatic for Mom.”

The whale was taken to Harbor Branch, where a necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

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