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Four whales euthanized after stranding in Eastham

The whales' health was deteriorating after three days on the beach and an unsuccessful rescue attempt.

IFAW
The International Fund for Animal Welfare sent a team of rescuers to help six pilot whales that were stranded in Eastham. Courtesy Photo/IFAW

Four whales were euthanized on Cape Cod Wednesday, their health having declined after three days on the beach and an unsuccessful rescue attempt the day prior. 

The pilot whales were deteriorating, and poor weather — combined with a tricky location and late high tide — ruled out further rescue efforts, according to Misty Niemeyer, stranding coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Initially, six whales were spotted swimming close to shore near Sunken Meadow Beach on Monday, according to IFAW spokesperson Stacey Hedman. One of them, a calf, died overnight.

While rescuers were able to refloat and release the five surviving whales on Tuesday, four of the whales ultimately turned back to shore, becoming stranded again, Niemeyer said in a video message shared with media outlets. 

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The fifth whale has not yet been located, according to Hedman. 

“The animals were doing very poorly at this point, and so our team of biologists and veterinarians that were out there did make the decision that the most humane thing … at this point was to euthanize these animals,” Niemeyer said, adding that the team did not believe the whales would survive another rescue effort.

“We gave them the best shot we could yesterday,” she added. “That was the best chance, and unfortunately they just weren’t able to make it out.”

The whales were in a difficult area on Wednesday and were faced with inclement weather, Hedman noted. 

“They passed quickly, which is another sign the timing was right,” she said.

“This is tough on all of our responders,” Hedman added. “We were cautiously optimistic and put a tremendous amount of work into this effort. If you were there, you likely felt our hopefulness as the whales first swam off at the end of the day yesterday.”

Cape Cod has historically been a hotspot for stranding, according to Niemeyer.

“It’s difficult to say with this group what exactly brought them in, but this is a frequent occurrence here on Cape Cod,” she said.

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