» 70 gray whales have washed ashore along the West Coast this year; what's killing them?
According to the Wildlife Resources Division from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, while some animals were successfully pushed back out, two pilot whales died and were taken in for a necropsy.
“The remaining whales were last seen swimming in the sound, and it is hoped they will continue to keep moving out to sea,” officials said.
It’s unclear what exactly led to the mass stranding, but DNR experts wrote on Facebook that “among cetaceans, pilot whales are the most common species known to strand in mass numbers.”
Last year, more than 50 beached pilot whales died on the shore of New Zealand’s Chatham Island. It was the fifth stranding in the country in less than a week.
"The reason whales and dolphins strand is not fully understood," Phys.org reported after the increased beaching. "But theories include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, the presence of predators, and extreme weather."
» What is red tide? Toxic phenomenon in Florida destroying marine life
Marine mammal scientist Karen Stockin told Phys.org she suspects the unusual changes in whale behavior were driven by “warmer sea surface temperatures” that affect where the prey is moving. “The reality is I've no doubt it's been further exacerbated by the potential global warming effect,” she said.
Recent research shows oceans are heating up 40% faster on average than previously estimated.