The day after Christmas, 2014, MMoME responded to a live juvenile pilot whale. This species lives in large pods, and solo individuals are rare. Any live cetacean (whale, dolphin or porpoise) stranded out of water is a life-threatening situation. MMoME’s cetacean response team quickly arrived on-scene, and found the 9 foot whale laying on his side in the mud.
Very few marine mammal rehabilitation facilities can take in small cetaceans; even fewer are equipped to care for larger species such as a pilot whale. Fortunately, our exam showed no injuries or sickness, and indicated a healthy animal despite his current situation. However, his size and location made it logistically impossible to relocate him back to the water. Our only option was to support him until the tide came back in. MMoME staff took turns holding him upright, making it easier for him to breath and keeping his airway clear of mud, and keeping his skin from drying out.
Eventually, the tide came back in and the young whale was able to swim again. However, at the next low tide he was again reported stranded in the next cove over! Still in good health, MMoME again supported him through the low tide until he was able to swim. It was starting to appear that this young pilot whale was not familiar with the local tides, and was getting stranded with each low tide. MMoME volunteers were stationed throughout the area to keep a continuous close eye on him, and prevent another stressful stranding event. Fortunately, he never stranded again and was able to swim out of the area! Without life-saving support, he likely would not have survived multiple stranding events on his own.