Saturday morning, Gulf World Marine Institute's Stranding Team responded to a call from Blair Maze NMFS stranding coordinator for the Southeast Region in Miami about a stranded marine mammal on the gulf side of Dog Island off Carrabelle.
Officers from Florida Fish and Wildlife stayed on scene until the Institute's stranding team arrived. When the team arrived they confirmed the animal to be an eight and one half foot male Melon-Headed Whale. This pelagic species (deep water animal) is not a common visitor to our beaches. Gulf World has only responded to one other Melon-Headed Whale stranded along our beaches in the past 5 years.
This animal was lethargic and had very weak vital signs. To get him back to the Institute's rehabilitation pool in Panama City Beach meant a transport overland from the Gulf side of the Island to the Bayside of the Island then a rough boat ride across the Bay to Carrabelle and finally a two hour or better van ride to the rehabilitation pool. Even though the chance of this very sick animal surviving the transport it was small, it was decided a small chance was better than no chance.
With the help of several locals, one with a vehicle to move him from one side of the Island to the other, the animal was loaded onto the FWC boat to cross the Bay. Before arriving at Carrabelle the animal died.
He was taken to the National Marine Fisheries Lab in Panama City where the Institute team performed a required necropsy on Sunday morning. All tissue samples will be sent to NOAA Fisheries for further testing and to conclude the cause of death. Preliminary results from the necropsy indicated the animal had pneumonia and fluid around the heart.
Gulf World Marine Institute would like to thank all of the people that helped in the effort to save this animal.
Information provided by Gulf World Marine Institute