Beached whale in Galveston to be euthanized

A pygmy sperm whale became stranded in shallow water along a Galveston Island beach. The rescued whale was transported to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network facility by their experts and the Galveston Fire Department. (Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Galveston Police Department)

February 23, 2011 4:16:16 PM PST
A 12-foot pygmy sperm whale found beached in Galveston is going to have to be euthanized, experts say. Galveston police received a call around 7:30am Wednesday about a whale on the west side of the island, in an area known for resorts, condominiums and beach houses.

Heidi Whitehead with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) says she and other rescuers hauled the 12 foot long pygmy sperm whale to the group's rehab facility in Galveston.

The whale was found in about a foot of water, near Silver Leaf Resort. Firefighters say when they arrived, the whale, which weighs about 1,000 to 1,500 pounds, was a little stressed with a few scars. It took 10-15 firefighters to load the whale into a sling and place it in a pickup truck.

"When we first saw it, it was very weak, it wasn't moving around a lot," said Stewart Goff with the Galveston Fire Department. "There was a little bit of blood in the water from some scars it had, from, I guess, thrashing around or fighting other animals. But it's doing a lot better by my opinion, in my layman opinion. It's doing a lot better now. It's moving around and kicking, which it wasn't doing. The first time it started doing that was here in the water at the facility."

Allison Wilkins from Forney, Texas, was looking for seashells when she saw what she thought was a big piece if plastic. After she realized it was a live creature in the surf on shore, she and her father Keith Wilkins called for help.

Keith said, "We just started picking up shells and she got a little bit ahead of me and saw what looked like a big fish in the ocean. When we got up to it, I could tell it looked more like a whale than a dolphin."

Allison told Eyewitness News she named the whale Betsy, and she thinks she and her dad are heroes.

Late Wednesday afternoon, officials said the whale's condition had deteriorated since its arrival at the TMMSN facility. They issued a statement that reads in part:

    "Prognosis for the animal is very poor and immediate release is not an option as the animal is in no condition to be released and would likely restrand on the beach. In addition, pygmy sperm whales have not been able to survive in captivity of any kind including attempts at rehabilitation. Considering this background and information on the species, the attending veterinarian has determined that keeping the whale alive in the rehabilitation tank will prolong suffering for the animal. Therefore, the decision has been made to put the whale to sleep in the best interest of the animal."

The last time a pygmy sperm whale beached in Galveston was about two years ago.