Wednesday, April 18, 2018
News Roundup

Officials: 20 whales spotted closer to shore

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. (AP) — Twenty whales believed to be part of a pod found stranded in the Everglades this week were spotted Friday afternoon moving closer toward shore, a sign they may be reversing their earlier, positive course, wildlife officials said.

The whales were about five nautical miles from the coast, one mile closer than Thursday.

"I am definitely concerned to hear about their behavior, that they are less organized, that they seem to be swimming very slowly," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stranding coordinator Blair Mase told reporters late Thursday afternoon. "They may have gotten to the point where they are exhausted."

Earlier Friday, officials had been hopeful the whales were headed back to the deeper, colder waters that form their natural habitat about 20 miles out to sea. On Thursday, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted three pods of about 35 whales that had moved six miles offshore and into water about 18 feet deep.

"They could dive, they were swimming, and they had a straight shot to their home range," Mase said of the short-finned pilot whales. "And they didn't take it."

Mase said the whales' apparent movement inshore raises concerns something may be preventing them from going further out to sea, such as an illness.

Eleven of the 51 whales spotted by a fishing guide Tuesday have died. Six were found dead Wednesday morning, and four were euthanized. Another died Thursday.

Necropsies on the deceased whales did not reveal any significant initial findings, though they did have empty stomachs, indicating their health may have been compromised. Scientists were awaiting the results of pathology tests to see whether there was any evidence of disease. According to NOAA, pilot whales have been known to carry the morbillivirus, which can cause skin lesions, pneumonia, brain and other infections.

A Coast Guard flyover Friday morning spotted only seven whales swimming in 12 to 14 feet of water. Two others that appeared to be closer to shore turned out to be dolphins, Mase said.

The larger group of whales could not be located.

But by Friday afternoon, Mase said the seven whales had joined a larger group of 20 heading south and inshore, in about 10 to 12 feet of water. There is no land in the immediate vicinity for them to beach themselves, she said.

On Wednesday, wildlife workers formed a semi-circle around the whales and used anchor chains to bang against their boats and try to herd the whales out of the shallow waters near the remote Everglades beach where they were found. Mase said it was unlikely they would move forward with herding efforts again.

"If they're trying to come inshore because that's their natural instinct, and we're pushing them out, we're getting them more and more tired," she said.

At some point, "We have to stand back and let nature take its course," she said.

From the start, NOAA and National Park Service officials have said the short-finned pilot whales faced significant hurdles. To get to deeper waters they faced a series of sandbanks, tributaries and patches of shallow water that Mase said were "almost like a maze."

Wildlife volunteers were surprised when they arrived at the stranding site Thursday and found the whales had managed to move six miles offshore on their own.

"Quite the surprise," Donna Buckley, a National Park Service volunteer said.

Donna and John Buckley had been the first to respond after the whales were found Tuesday afternoon. A call came across the parks radio, and the Buckleys were the closest volunteers to the remote western edge of the Everglades park where the whales were found.

When they got to the beach, John Buckley waded through the shallow waters in a canoe while his wife stayed aboard the boat, counting the whales drifting before her. In their 28 years as volunteers in the Everglades, they had seen only one whale stranded before.

John Buckley climbed ashore and ran to one of about nine whales stuck on the sand. He grabbed its tail and began to pull.

"Once the whale could feel the water, it reacted," John Buckley, 72, said. "It wanted to help."

The whale flapped at him, knocking him into the water. He got back up and continued pushing the whale until it was entirely back in the water. Three park rangers then arrived and started working with him to pull the other whales off the beach.

The whales they were able to help save seemed ill, Donna Buckley said.

"They seemed very disoriented, confused," she said. "They didn't know which end was up."

The next day seemed to only confirm their suspicions that the whales were sick. The couple said the animals drifted languidly in the water, as if, John Buckley imagined, paralyzed by grief. He recalled how the whales seemed to look at him, quietly acknowledging his presence.

"They could have just rammed me and knocked me over, but they didn't do it," he said. "I could tell there was some thinking going on there. I just didn't understand."

Comments
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for April 18

Wednesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 2, Boca Ciega 1Springstead 10, Nature Coast 4
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

TAMPA — A political fight over the makeup of Hillsborough County government could be heading to voters to decide.After a discussion divided along party lines, commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to overhaul the structure of th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Updated: 3 hours ago
2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

New HampshireWe need more of these signsTwo men are trying to spread some positivity with their feel-good signs. NH1 reported Greg Amaral and Wendell Walker have stood in downtown Nashua with signs carrying positive messages each weekend since Easter...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. aren’t available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., April 18, midday:15 112 6177e_SRit28928Wed., April 18, evening:11 318 7120e_SRit93676LottoWed., April 18:...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

WorldDiamond sheds light on ‘lost planet’Fragments of a meteorite that fell to Earth about a decade ago provide compelling evidence of a lost planet that once roamed our solar system, according to a study published Tuesday. Researchers from Switzerla...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before they lost several of the hitters they were relying most on to injuries, the Rays did not exactly have a lineup built on intimidation.Their own owner said opening day that he expected them to rank among the least pro...
Updated: 5 hours ago