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Whale found on Galveston beach euthanized

by Michelle Homer / & Brad Woodard / 11 News

Posted on February 23, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 24 at 10:16 AM

Beached whale

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GALVESTON, Texas— The pygmy sperm whale found stranded on Galveston Island Wednesday morning has been euthanized.

Workers with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said the whale was suffering and couldn't be saved.

"We’re trying to keep the animal as comfortable as possible, at this point," Heidi Whitehead with TMMSN said Wednesday, before the animal was put down. "Pygmy sperm whales have not successfully been rehabilitated by marine mammal rehabilitation facilities."

Keith Wilkins, a Dallas tourist, and his 11-year-old daughter Allison spotted the 12-foot whale while looking for seashells near Jamaica Beach.

"It was kind of horrifying and kind of sad to know that an animal can be beached like that and struggle to get back out there and die," said Allison Wilkins. "Every time he would try to come up and breathe, he would just fall back over."

"It was really sad," said Keith Wilkins.

The whale had beached in the 19300 block of FM 3005 near the Silver Lake Beach Resort.

Police notified the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network and they immediately sent a crew.

The animal was still breathing and its eyes were open when they arrived. 

TMMSN workers and Galveston firefighters loaded the whale onto a stretcher and into a pickup truck. 

"We had two firefighters in the back of the truck -- along with workers from the Marine Mammal Network -- and we were mainly just keeping it from rolling over, keeping its skin wet with buckets of water and sponges," said Stewart Goff, a Galveston firefighter.

The whale was transported to a tank at Fort Crockett along the Galveston Seawall.

The whale was stressed and TMMSN workers tried to calm it while they examined it. They saw no obvious injuries, other than a few scratches.

Officials will perform a necropsy to try and determine why it became stranded. Reasons can range from illness to human contact to the weather.

Pygmy sperm whales, on average, grow to about 10 feet long. The maximum length for adults is 14 feet, and the maximum weight is 900 pounds.

They feed primarily on octopus and squid, but they also eat crab, fish and shrimp.

According to the American Cetacean Society, pygmy sperm whales are found in all temperate, subtropical and tropical waters and are not known to migrate.

Strandings are common among pygmy sperm whales, especially along the southeastern coast of the United States.  

TMMSN workers originally thought it was a baby sperm whale, but changed their minds after examining it more closely.