2 sperm whales die within one week in Florida Keys

Wildlife officials investigate after an emaciated 47-foot adult male sperm whale stranded and died in the Florida Keys. (Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Two sperm whales have died within a week of each other in the Florida Keys, but officials did not immediately see a connection between the deaths.

A calf died after beaching itself on Key Largo last Wednesday, said Blair Mase, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator. Then an adult male, nearly 50 feet long, was found beached Tuesday night about 15 miles northeast of Key West. The remains were towed to a nearby marina early Wednesday morning.

"We're trying to gather as much information as we possibly can," Mase said. "We're really hoping it doesn’t become a trend."

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A necropsy on the calf determined it likely died from being separated from its mother, Mase said. Officials were still waiting for results to determine if the calf was carrying any disease. Officials from NOAA, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder, were studying the adult corpse Wednesday, noting the animal appeared to be emaciated.

Mase said officials typically record about two sperm whale strandings a year in the Gulf of Mexico, so two in a week is unusual. Sperm whales are normally found far away from land unless they are sick, Mase said.

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Anyone who spots a whale near the shore should call 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343).