Nova Scotia

Baby pilot whale dies at Halifax-area beach despite efforts of rescuers

Despite the efforts of the Marine Animal Response Society and others, a baby pilot whale stranded Saturday at Rainbow Haven Beach east of Halifax didn't survive.

Female whale discovered stranded Saturday at Rainbow Haven Beach

Rescuers tried to calm the whale Saturday at Rainbow Haven Beach and ensure it was in deep enough waters. (Andrew Wright)

A baby female pilot whale that was found stranded over the weekend at a beach east of Halifax didn't survive, despite the best efforts of rescuers from a marine animal conservation group.

Tonya Wimmer, the executive director of Marine Animal Response Society, said they got a call around 10 a.m. on Saturday that a whale had been stranded at Rainbow Haven Beach and someone had pushed it back into the water.

Responders swept the area and found the whale on a nearby inaccessible sand bank. Wimmer said it managed to extricate itself from the sand bank and made its way to the back of a salt marsh.

"It was quite calm where she was, but we still had to figure out how to get her all the way back out, especially with a fairly rapidly dropping tide," Wimmer said. 

She said the Department of Lands and Forestry transported the rescuers to the salt marsh and two people from the community volunteered their boat to help get the whale back to the ocean.

Wimmer said once they got to the scene, their first mission was to stabilize the animal and to ensure it was in deep enough water. After stabilizing and calming the whale, the MARS team used whale rescue pontoons to refloat the animal. 

Rescuers floated the whale on a pontoon to take it back out to sea. (Marine Animal Response Society)

The whale was taken back to the beach where the plan was to release it in deeper waters — but nature was not co-operating with the rescue effort.

"The surf there was just so strong and we thought that we couldn't even get her past the break," Wimmer said. "We got her as far as we could, we were able to release her, but the unfortunate thing was she came back to shore."

The whale did not make it through the night.

According to Wimmer, the whale had already been released three times at that point and that wasn't a good sign for the condition of the animal. 

She said a post-mortem examination of the whale revealed that while it was not a newborn, it was likely still feeding off its mother and probably had little chance of survival in the wild. 

Wimmer said pandemic restrictions also hurt the rescue efforts. 

"We are still limited by having a small group because obviously we are also trying to follow all the gathering restrictions and whatnot because of it," she said.

Wimmer said there could be any number of reasons the whale became stranded, and it may have simply wandered away from its pod to explore before getting lost. 

Wimmer said she is grateful for all the volunteers who helped and is urging anyone who comes across a dead marine animal or one in distress to contact the Marine Animal Response Society.