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Stranded whale at Perdido Key

The whale that washed ashore on Gulf Islands National Seashore Tuesday morning was described as very rare to see in this area.

Susan Leveille of the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge said "the stranding was reported to us about 8 a.m., reported initially at Perdido Key, and our rescue team responded immediately."

The whale is a melon-head whale, not often seen near the beaches. It's usually found in tropical waters, like those surronding Hawaii and the Phillipines.

Leveille said "it's unusual to have an animal like this wash up, yes. They are a pelagic species, they're deep-water. So we don't know the circumstances of death."

A rescue attempt was made, but the whale was unable to pull through. A necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Whales, like these from a stranding in South Florida, do occassionally wash up on the shores of the area. A sick pilot whale had to be euthanized last November after it washed up on the shore of Santa Rosa Beach.

Said Leveille, "lately we've had a few strandings. It's a bit unusual for this time of year."

Leveille is the assistant director of the refuge, which assisted in the rescue, and says increased predator activity could be forcing the whales closer to shore.

Said Leveille,  "lately the cause we think has been, we think, predators. We have animals that have appeared that have shark bites and known shark attacks on them. Some have been observed, actually."

Leveille says that if you come across a stranded animal, to leave it where you find it. Moving it to deeper water could hurt the animal, and if the animal struggles, it could hurt you.

"If someone is walking along the beach and sees an animal in distress washing up in the waves or struggling in the shallow water, by all means, do not push it back into the water. That is the number one worst thing you could possibly do."

The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge says it could take several months for the cause of death to be determined.