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81 False Killer Whales Die In The Everglades After Pod Becomes Stranded

Authorities say 81 false killer whales died after their pod became stranded near the Everglades' Hog Key this weekend.
NOAA Fisheries
Authorities say 81 false killer whales died after their pod became stranded near the Everglades' Hog Key this weekend.

Authorities say 81 false killer whales died this weekend in the southwest Everglades after their pod became stranded in shallow water.


Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries Service said on Monday that officials are investigating why the pod swam into shallow waters near Hog Key, southeast of Everglades City. Mase said rescuers had to travel about an hour by boat to the animals, and struggled to herd them into deeper water.


"The whales that were beached were scattered and spread out all along the shoreline and deeply embedded in some of the mangroves," she said.


Mase said rescuers euthanized nine of the animals.


Despite their name, false killer whales are a type of endangered dolphin, according to the NOAA website. NMFS reported there were about 95 false killer whales in the pod that was stranded, ranging in age from calves to adults. As of Monday afternoon, NMFS reported one false killer whale had been seen alive and about 13 were unaccounted for. 


"This is our largest mass stranding of this species that has ever occurred in Florida," Mase said.


Authorities know of two previous strandings of false killer whales in Florida. Twenty-eight of the animals were stranded in Key West in 1986, and 40 were stranded in Cedar Key in 1989.


Mase said investigators are performing necropsies on the dead false killer whales to determine why they became stranded. It’s possible the false killer whales followed a dolphin or a pod leader too close to shore, or that there was a sonar signal that caused them to become disoriented. 

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.