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Live Pygmy Sperm Whale Stranding in Myrtle Beach, SC

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

A pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) live stranded on Myrtle Beach, SC on May 4th, 2023. The animal died naturally on-site and was then transported off-site for a necropsy the following day.

This was determined to be an 8.5ft sub-adult/adult pygmy sperm whale, which is an offshore, deep-diving species. Initial necropsy findings indicated this animal was dehydrated, had gastric ulcers, a heavy parasite load (pretty common for this species), and likely dilated cardiomyopathy which may have contributed to death. Additional samples were collected for pathology testing which may take 6-8 weeks for results.

What To Do If You Find A Stranded Marine Mammal:

Bystanders initially attempted to encourage the animal back to deeper water, until the animal eventually stranded and died naturally. We appreciate the response bystanders showed this whale but we want to share some tips if you come across a live marine mammal.

Don’t push live stranded marine mammals back! Dolphins and other marine mammals strand when they are sick or injured. Pushing a marine mammal back into the water delays assessment and treatment from trained responders and can lead to further injury, suffering, and eventual death. If you see a stranded animal, follow these three steps to help:

STOP: Don’t push them back! CALL: 1-877-WHALEHELP (942-5343) 24-hr Southeast stranding hotline ASSIST: Follow directions from a trained responder

Kogia sp. (dwarf and pygmy sperm whales) are the second most commonly stranded marine mammal in the southeast region of the U.S. (U.S. Atlantic coast from Florida through North Carolina, Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Kogia sp. are the most common live stranding in the Southeast. All marine mammals are federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Only those authorized under the MMPA may legally handle live and dead marine mammals.

Thank you to Myrtle Beach Beach Patrol, the SCDNR, police department, Myrtle Beach Public Works, and LMMN volunteers for all their help on this case!

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