GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A melon-headed whale that washed ashore in Alabama this weekend is getting a second chance at life thanks to rescuers and the staff at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.
It all started Saturday morning in Fort Morgan when a beach goer spotted the animal and called the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
Several firefighters from the Fort Morgan Fire Rescue and an employee with the Orange Beach Wildlife Center helped stabilize the whale and moved it off the beach until ALMMSN arrived. The Alabama rescue team then met the IMMS team halfway and handed the whale off for treatment.
"The animal handled the transport really well," Stranding Coordinator Noel Wingers said.
The 300 pound whale arrived at IMMS Saturday afternoon, where it will be monitored and rehabbed.
"The animal is in the water, and breathing okay. He's stabilized very well and looking better, but he's not out of the woods," said IMMS Executive Director Dr. Moby Solangi
Sunday morning, the melon-headed whale was moving around in the water slowly. Solangi says the next 72 hours are critical for the wounded mammal.
The team at IMMS is trying to figure out exactly what caused him to swim north and how to nurse him back to health.
"We hydrated him, we gave him some fluids, we gave him some antibiotics, we'll see if they're working, the blood results will be coming in shortly, the cultures will tell us what bacteria or fungus we're dealing with," Solangi said.
Remember, if you see a stranded animal on the beach, do not attempt to return the animal to the water. Instead, call the experts to help at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN (888-767-3657) or 1-877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).
Here are other guidelines to follow:
- Never push the animal back into the water. Marine mammals typically strand due to sickness or injury.
- Pushing an animal back to sea increases stress levels, places the animal in additional danger from predators and could seriously injure the animal or yourself.
- Keep unnecessary people, pets and noise away from the animal.
- Do not leave the animal, it may not be able to keep itself upright.
- Try not to excessively touch the animal.
- Relieve pressure on fins and lungs by digging holes underneath them and filling with water.
- Provide shade or repel wind to keep the animal warm/cool.
- Keep blowhole free of obstruction
- Be careful around the mouth and tail area
- Do NOT touch the melon (bulbous region just anterior to the blowhole).
- Stay with the animal until expert help arrives.