00:58 - Source: CNN
Five beached whales rescued in Florida
CNN —  

Crowds of people abandoned their beach day to help rescue crews save five distressed pilot whales in Florida on Monday.

The whales were stranded in the shallow waters of Redington Beach, near St. Petersburg. Several wildlife agencies and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, along with bystanders, worked on transporting the animals to safety.

Pilot whales normally live about 100 miles offshore, and officials don’t know why these were so close to land. Jessica Powell, a marine mammal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that they usually travel and live in groups of 10 to 100, and it is hard to pinpoint what may have caused the five to leave the group.

While rescue crews assessed the animals, tents were set up over the whales to protect them from the sun, and people poured water over them to keep them cool. Three of the whales will be taken into deeper water in hopes that they return to their natural habitat.

“The other two whales have been transported to Clearwater Marine Aquarium rehab facility for a few days, where they will receive additional medical treatment,” Powell said. “Hopefully, this will just be a few days of holding for them and they can be transported back out like the previous three.”

Videos from the scene show dozens of people helping carry a whale out of the water, up the beach and to a truck for transfer to the facility.

All the whales were tagged so NOAA can monitor their movements.

Also this month, dozens of bystanders stepped in to save a pod of beached pilot whales on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The state Department of Natural Resources said pilot whales “are highly social animals and will frequently follow leaders and attempt to congregate around sick or injured individuals.” Two of those whales died and were taken to a wildlife management area for necropsy.

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Artemis Moshtaghian, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Kate Conerly and Danielle Hackett contributed to this report.