An elderly female orca stranded on a beach in Florida has died from an unknown illness, reports NOAA. This is the first-ever incidence of a killer whale beaching itself along the Sunshine State’s coastlines to be reported. At this point, illness seems to be the cause of death vs. human ignorance.
Whales and other sea creatures will strand or beach themselves from time to time, much to the torment of experts in the field. Marine biologists don’t fully understand the phenomenon, but it almost always follows some sort of illness in the animals. There are a number of hypotheses surrounding these events, but there’s still much to be learned on the subject.
“This whale was an older female, almost geriatric, and she did have a lot of illness going on in her body. So, we could rule out potential human interaction. We could rule out trauma. It looks more like something going on as illness. It looks like an illness impacted this whale,” said Blair Mase-Gutherie, NOAA’s Southeast region marine mammals stranding coordinator.
Mysteries of Aquatic Life
Measuring 21 feet, the whale beached itself along Jungle Hut Park in Flagler County, which sits on Florida’s Palm Coast. Scientists described it as an “extremely rare occurrence” and noted that it was the first record of a killer whale stranding in Florida. Dozens of people spent hours trying to load the roughly 5,000-pound whale onto a truck to be transported to SeaWorld Orlando, where it will undergo a necropsy to help determine what actually happened.
Mase-Gutherie stated that a team of pathologists, biologists, and veterinarians worked late into the evening gathering tissue from the largest member of the dolphin family. But how it died is not necessarily their endgame.
“So, we’re gonna find out —— try and find out what type of illness. Collected a lot of samples, biological and pathology samples, to determine what disease or process was going on exactly,” Mase-Gutherie added. She also clarified that it’s not unheard of for orcas to be present off the coast of Florida, but they are usually so far offshore that they aren’t visible.
Florida Shark Visibility
Sharks, on the other hand, are a very different story along the shark attack capital of the world. Frequently seen just yards from swimmers via aerial footage, Volusia and Brevard counties have the highest rates of human/shark interactions, with 320 and 153 attacks, respectively. In the last 10 years alone, Florida has seen 236 of them. Fortunately, very few are fatal, though.Whizzco