IMMS puzzled by melon headed whales found stranded in Waveland

IMMS puzzled by melon headed whales found stranded in Waveland

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A tremendous challenge never before handled by the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport.

On Tuesday morning two male, juvenile Melon Headed Whales were discovered at Three Oaks Bayou in Waveland by a fisherman. One found beached on shore.The other close by.

Now IMMS workers are moving around the clock to make sure the two survive and figure out how they ended up on the coast.

Shane Kowalski was out fishing near Three Oaks Bayou when he first heard their blow holes.

"I kept hearing it over and over and over. And after a while I kept hearing noise, so I eased up to the shore and realized there was, at the time, what I thought was a dolphin stranded in the mud along the marsh," said Shane Kowalski.

He called IMMS. A rescue party soon arrived and were able to determine they were whales. But there's more to uncover.

How did these deep water mammals lose their pod and end up more than 100 hundred miles north in South Mississippi?

"We consider them as black boxes, like you see on airplanes. They tell you a history of what may be going on. Very little is known about the species. By looking at stranded animals it gives you a window on what may be going on," said IMMS Director Dr. Moby Solangi.

Disoriented and currently unable to swim on their own, staff members and volunteers keep the gentle animals afloat in a specialized pool. As the time passes the whales show signs of improvement.

"There was little to no movement when we got there. They were helpless when we first showed up. And right now what are they doing? They are breathing more. Their heart rate is up. The little one is hugging close to the big one. It's like he always goes in to nuzzle, always touching him," said Stranded Vet Assistant Alicia Carron.

"It's so rewarding for us to get them back to normal since they've been out for so long this morning," said Vet Technician Wendy Hatchett.

Dr. Solangi is hopeful for their recovery and that their blood work will help him and others at the IMMS uncover how the pair landed on the coast and provide more insight into the species.

"We will be able to have a better understanding. Again, we have some very experienced people, we're going to be under 24 hour watch on it," said Dr. Solangi.

Dr. Solangi said the whales are about five to six feet long, but can grow to about eight feet and weigh as much as 600 to 800 pounds.

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