Beached pilot whales saved in Sunbury Cove
'It was hard to get them into the pontoons but after a while they calmed down'
Rescuers worked to save two beached pilot whales on P.E.I.’s south shore Thursday.
Local residents spotted a pod of nine animals Tuesday night. The pod included four young calves and their mothers. They were beached in marshy shallows at Sunbury Cove, near Summerside.
Wildlife officials scouted the area Wednesday. When crews hit the water Thursday it appeared most of the pod had escaped to deep water, including the calves. Rescuers found two adult females dead on shore.
The Halifax-based Marine Animal Response Society and P.E.I. wildlife officials worked to free the two remaining whales. They used inflated yellow pontoons and successfully floated the whales to safety.
"They were stressed at the start. It was hard to get them into the pontoons but after a while they calmed down," said Adam Harman, a volunteer with society. "Once they were together they really calmed down."
Andrew Reid, also with the society, explained the stranding. "They're an extremely social species. There might have been one sick animal in the group," said Reid. "So that's one possibility where that one sick animal stranded itself and because they're such a social species, all the other animals come in as well and they strand themselves."
The Marine Animal Response Society has handled several pilot whale beachings in Nova Scotia this year. Those involved just one or two animals.