19 January 2005

34 whales die off US coast

Scientists and national park service workers were working to collect samples and clean up whale carcasses after 34 of the marine mammals beached themselves and either died or had to be put down.

Dozens of whales beached themselves early on Saturday along a 8km stretch of coastline near Oregon Inlet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Twenty-four pilot whales died, and another seven were put down because they were suffering, the national park service reported.

A single minke whale was found dead in Corolla, the Virginian-Pilot reported. Two pygmy sperm whales turned up on Sunday morning near Buxton - one already dead, and one so sick that it also had to be put down, NOAA Fisheries biologist Barbie Byrd said.

"We're hoping that this is all of them," she said.

It is not uncommon for pilot whales to beach themselves, but scientists do not know why. The pilot whale is a protected species but not endangered.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service was co-ordinating a recovery effort that involved biologists, Coast Guard crews and the National Park Service.


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