NOAA officials work to investigate whale washed ashore - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

NOAA officials work to investigate whale washed ashore

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – While experts with NOAA work to determine exactly what killed the whale found on Tuesday evening, they do believe the bites on its body are from a shark.

Liz Stratton, an Assistant Stranding Coordinator and NOAA Contractor explained the organization received a call last night with reports of a pigmy sperm whale. The animal was discovered after washing up on the beach near 29th Avenue South.

Stratton said there was a possibility the whale was still alive when it first beached itself, but that it had died before being transported from the scene.

According to Stratton, pigmy sperm whales are deep-water animals, but it is not uncommon to see them stranded on the beach. She believes South Carolina sees a couple stranded each year.

The whale found behind the hotels on Tuesday night is estimated to be around 10 feet long.

Stratton said the bite marks on the animal are consistent with shark bites, but they are still working to determine if they were ‘feeding bites.' It is possible the whale's health was compromised and was heading to the beach to die when it had a run-in with the shark.

“In all the years I've been coming to a beach I've never encountered something like that before,” expressed Kris McGettrick. She was sitting on her hotel balcony late at night when her daughter thought she saw someone swimming in the shallow water.

“We looked closer and realized it was a fin!” recalled McGettrick. She was able to take pictures and video of the injured whale, but was unable to help it.

Stratton explained this is a situation many people will never encounter, but if they do they need to stay away from the animal and call experts immediately.

She pointed out that many people have the initial reaction to push the animals back into the water, but this could end up harming them further. She explained this is because the majority of animals will strand themselves a second time, and could be already injured. Pushing them back into the water could prolong their suffering.

There is a stranding hotline to connect you to NOAA, depending on which state you are calling from. In South Carolina, the contact number is 800-922-5431.

There is also a smartphone app called Whale and Dolphin 911.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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