Whale found stranded along beach in Surfside

February 8, 2013 4:23:32 PM PST
It's probably the last thing a group of beachgoers expected to see while enjoying the sun and sand, but they actually came to the rescue of a whale in serious trouble.

The type of whale that was stranded had only been seen one other time in Texas in the last three decades. And while the beachgoers in Surfside who pushed it back out to sea meant well, experts say those animals often need medical attention.

Six people struggled to push a Minke whale back out into the Gulf of Mexico. The 20+ foot deep water whale stranded itself Thursday in Surfside. Ron Scott says they labored with whale for several hours.

"It was kind of getting scarred up and cut on the bottom," he said. "You could see it was bleeding from being there in the shell and sand."

The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network had already received calls about the animal and was mobilizing their critical care team to go to the scene. The whale, however, had already been pushed back out to sea, something experts discourage.

"The main reason for that is because, in the best interest of the animal, an examination and any required treatment needs to take place," explained Heidi Whitehead with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. "Those animals are typically on the beach for a reason."

Especially a deep water that is often miles below the surface. We are in stranding season right now. It runs from January through March, with, on average, 75 to 100 animals being found along the Texas coast. Most are deceased.

"It's coming off of calving season for bottled nose dolphins, that's only a certain time of year typically and that's probably why we see some of those young ones," Whitehead said. "Also the winter months, the water temperatures drop. It becomes very cold. So animals, some of those older ones come in with pneumonia. We see evidence of that in their lungs."

This was a rare sight, as only one other Minke whale stranding has been documented in Texas in the last 30 years.

"It was quite a struggle," Scott said. "The whale was fighting real bad. It was confused, it looked like."

The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network says the best way to handle a stranded animal is to call in experts. Their hotline is 1-800-9-MAMMAL.

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