Wildlife officials in southwest Florida who are struggling to save dozens of beached pilot whales say there's hope that at least some of the animals might escape after they spotted at least 20 of them swimming in deeper water.
The Associated Press reports:
"Blair Mase, a fisheries stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said a Coast Guard helicopter found two pods of whales in about 12 feet of water, 'significantly north' of their previous location in Everglades National Park. The short-finned pilot whale is a deep-water species that cannot survive long in the shallows."
As we reported earlier, the stranding of about 45 pilot whales was first noticed on Tuesday in a remote area of Florida's Everglades.
NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami that more than 30 people and about 15 boats are involved Thursday in an ongoing operation to redirect the whales.
Another NOAA stranding coordinator, Liz Stratton, says rescuers are working on trying to lead the animals into deeper water.
"We're going to do some herding and maybe a little bit of hazing, where we are trying to coax them out of the situation we're in now," she told reporters.
Allen says those tactics include revving boat engines and banging on metal pipes to herd the pilot whales out to the open ocean.
The AP says:
"The short-finned pilot whales typically live in very deep water. Even if rescuers were able to begin nudging the 41 remaining whales out to sea, they would encounter a series of sandbars and patches of shallow water along the way.
"The species also is known for its close-knit social groups: If one whale gets stuck or stays behind, the others are likely to stay or even beach themselves as well."
Stratton says because of the shallow water, and the difficulty of working with such large animals, capturing and rehabilitating them is not an option.