BAYFIELD, N.S. — Another group of beached whales in Nova Scotia has been helped back out to sea, marking the second time this week that concerned residents joined together to save a stranded pod.
“They’re still in shallow-ish water, but we’re hoping that they will eventually sort of continue their way out,” said Tonya Wimmer, president of the Marine Animal Response Society.
The group joined Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the local fire department and residents Wednesday night after 14 pilot whales were beached off Bayfield, near the northern Nova Scotia community of Antigonish.
The rescuers pushed the whales back into the water, but the pod remained nearby and became stuck again shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday, Wimmer said.
“It was a bit of race against time, because the tide was actually just going out, and it’s an extremely shallow bay,” she said.
“Once the tide was out, they were really going to be high and dry.”
After about two hours of work the assembled crews were able to successfully refloat all 14 whales, including at least three that were significantly smaller than the others — probably young calves.
“The hard part … is that this whole area is very well known in the summertime to be filled with pilot whales,” Wimmer said, adding that their feeding habits make them one of the whale species that get stranded with some regularity.
“This is the normal area for them to be. It’s normal for them to even be coastal,” she said.
“ 1/8But 3/8 it’s a little strange to have had two mass strandings in the past two days.”
On Tuesday a group of 16 to 19 whales were stranded in a small cove near Judique in Cape Breton. Despite efforts by rescue crews, eight of those whales died.
Wimmer said there’s a possibility some of the whales saved Thursday were the same as those in Judique, but it’s more likely this was a different group. She said there had already been sightings of whales milling off Bayfield when the Judique stranding was underway.
The cause of either stranding is unknown. Wimmer said one whale may have been sick and led the others astray, or the whales could have simply misjudged the tides.
Wimmer credited the people on hand with Thursday’s successful rescue.
“I think anyone is hard-pressed to just look at these animals lying on a beach helpless and not want to do something,” she said, describing how the whales called to each other as they lay stranded.
“It’s a pretty emotional thing to be involved in.”