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Over 80 false killer whales dead in Southwest Florida

By Karen Graham     Jan 16, 2017 in Environment
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is investigating the stranding of over 80 false killer whales near Hog Key in Southwest Florida over the weekend.
According to the Palm Beach Post, 81 of the rare dolphins has died with one surviving and 13 still unaccounted for, according to a Tweet by NOAA.
The false killer whale, Pseudorca crassidens, is the world's fourth-largest dolphin and is a member of the oceanic dolphin family. They got their name because they resemble orcas, commonly called killer whales but they don't have the white patches orcas have. They range in size from 15 to 20 feet in length and adults can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.
False killer whales can be found around the globe in tropical and semitropical climates, although the populations are usually wide-spread. They have not been studied as much as orcas, and not a great deal is known about them. The species was thought to be extinct until a large pod was observed in the Kiel Bay in Germany in 1861.
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NOAA Fish Southeast
Because the false killer whale's status is classified as "Data Deficient" on the IUCN Red List, NOAA, along with state and federal wildlife agencies have been taking the stranding of the pod that numbered nearly 100 very seriously. The event is the largest stranding of these whales ever recorded in Florida, officials say.
NOAA confirmed that the first reports of the stranding came in on Saturday afternoon, and along with a team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission they went to the site, about an hour's boat ride from shore.
All through the afternoon, the teams tried to herd the whales to deeper water, but many of them were entangled in the mangroves in the western side of Everglades National Park, reports Fox News.
Blair Mase, coordinator for NOAA’s southeast mammal stranding network said, "the whales were deeply embedded in some of the mangroves making response efforts extremely difficult." She also said that a lack of cell phone service and sharks added to the problems crews had to deal with.
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NOAA Fish Southeast
By Sunday evening, 72 whales had died on their own, nine were euthanized and 13 were still unaccounted for. Strandings in the U.S. are very rare for this creature. "The last time this happened was in 1986 when a pod of 40 swam close to Cedar Key, but only three stranded themselves," Mase said.
The largest stranding of false killer whales to ever occur in recent history was in Mar Del Plata, Argentina in 1946, when 835 whales beached themselves.
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