Whale strand still a mystery

Catherine MasseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Parks and Wildlife Service assessed the Gray's beaked whale before it was released into deeper water. It later became stranded again near Meelup and died as a result.
Camera IconParks and Wildlife Service assessed the Gray's beaked whale before it was released into deeper water. It later became stranded again near Meelup and died as a result. Credit: Parks and Wildlife Service

A whale carcass at Meelup Beach last week sparked a shark warning after a Gray’s beaked whale stranded itself off Dunsborough.

The 3.9 metre whale was rescued around 11am on Friday from the Dunsborough Bay after it became lost, but stranded again around lunchtime and was unable to be saved.

Parks and Wildlife Service Marine Park ranger Fiona Graham said the stranding was likely related to a similar incident in January which involved four of the same species of whale.

“We had four Gray’s beaked whale’s strand at Peppermint Beach on January 5 and one of them ended up having to be euthanised after a vet assessment, but the other three were re-floated by members of the public before Parks and Wildlife staff arrived,” Ms Graham said.

“We have now gone over video and photos collected from January 5 and believe this stranded whale was one of the three which were refloated at peppermint beach,” she said.

The reason for the two stranding incidents remains unknown but Ms Graham believes there must have been “something bigger going on”.

“The animal had no visible injuries, we had Dunsborough Vet come down and assess the animal – when we arrived the breathing rate was a little high but it dropped off soon after and was quite good,” she said.

Ms Graham said ideally the Parks and Wildlife team would have refloated the whale off Cape Naturaliste in 30 metres of water but weather conditions prevented it.

“The decision was made to release it in the bay and unfortunately half-an-hour to an hour later the animal did re-strand just up at Meelup Beach,” she said.

Ms Graham said multiple events leading up to the rescue mission made the situation harder.

“The public tried to push the whale back out before we arrived. We would just like to ask members of the public to not do that,” she said.

Locals are urged to call the Wildcare helpline on 9474 9055 if they come across a stranded whale or dolphin and are encouraged to keep the animal wet, keep calm, and not block the blow hole until help arrives.

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