Fort Walton Beach based nonprofit organization, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and Gulf World Marine Park responded to a marine mammal stranding report made at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday morning on Santa Rosa Beach in the Gulf Shore Drive proximity. Amanda Wilkerson, executive director of Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and Dr. Lydia Staggs, D.V.M of Gulfworld Marine Park were first to arrive on scene and were later joined by Brittany Pattrick, wildlife health technician and Deb Edwards of ECWR along with several key personnel from Gulf World Marine Park to assist with the stranding.
Wilkerson reported that with the joint effort of both organizations, the team was able to maneuver the male Short-finned Pilot Whale from the turbulent surf into a more stable and comfortable position. From there, the marine mammal underwent a thorough examination, which including blood work. Upon assessment of the blood work-up, the veterinarian on scene and NOAA Fisheries decided the best course of action would be to humanely euthanize the marine mammal. A necropsy will be performed to further analyze details surrounding the incident.
“It never becomes less heart wrenching to see it end this way, but I’m glad to have received the report from concerned residents who were knowledgeable on handling the situation” said Wilkerson. “They called professionals immediately, and most importantly, did not try to move the animal into deeper water. More times than not, strandings are related to sickness or injury impairing the animal’s ability to swim; moving them back into the water will almost always end disastrously.”
About Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge:
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge’s daily operational goal is to rehabilitate and release all orphaned and injured wildlife indigenous to northwest Florida in accordance with good wildlife management practices. In addition, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge provides wildlife rescue services and environmental outreach to five counties in Northwest Florida. Refuge staff is on duty 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to assist local and state agencies in managing wildlife. For more information or to contact the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge visit www.ecwildliferefuge.com or call 850-650-1880.
About ECWR’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center:
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) has provided marine mammal response for the western Florida panhandle since 1994. ECWR is authorized by NOAA to handle these federally protected animals as a member organization of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network. ECWR’s coverage area spans Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia counties including Choctawhatchee Bay, Santa Rosa Sound, Pensacola & East Bay, Big Lagoon, and Perdido Bay, an area of over 85 miles of Gulf beaches and 350 miles of inland shoreline.