Pilot whales strand themselves in the Florida Keys

Friday, April 18th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BIG PINE KEY, Fla. (AP) _ At least 27 pilot whales stranded themselves Friday in shallow water off the Florida Keys and four have died, officials said.

The whales, in two separate groups, are stuck about five miles north of Big Pine Key, said Laura Engleby of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.

The surviving whales are being tended by about 50 rescuers from the Coast Guard and other groups.

``We're trying to stabilize and keep them comfortable as possible until a marine mammal veterinarian arrives,'' Engleby said. ``When she gets here well work to assess their health and decide which animals will be good candidates for rehabilitation and release.''

Engleby said it will be difficult to move the whales to deeper water because the water is so shallow. A barge from a towing and salvage company was assisting with the effort.

The stranded pods include adult males and females as well as calves. Some of the whales are as large as 17 feet in length and weigh as much as several tons, Engleby said.