SANTA ROSA BEACH — An injured pygmy sperm whale found beached was later euthanized by wildlife officials near the Blue Mountain Beach beach access Wednesday morning.
In a video posted by Discover 30A, a travel guide website, the whale was covered in what looks like a yellow towel and was brought out of the water by two men. Another man assisted by pouring water from a bucket onto the animal. The video had been viewed 20,000 times as of Thursday morning.
Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Director Carol Andersen said the refuge received a call about the beached mammal and dispatched its marine mammal stranding team.
While en route to the beach, Andersen said they talked with volunteers from the South Walton Beach Ambassadors program on site to give general information on how to care for the animal until they arrived.
"They were a great assistance to us," Andersen said.
When the refuge employees arrived, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission already was there along with a lifeguard assisting the animal. South Walton Beach Ambassadors were assisting with crowd control, Andersen said.
The refuge called the Gulf World Marine Institute and performed an initial inspection.
Andersen said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the mammal was a pygmy sperm whale.
Andersen said NOAA made the call to euthanize the animal on the beach.
"It was obvious to us it was not doing well and it chose to strand itself," Andersen said.
The whale was then taken to the refuge, where a necropsy was conducted at the request of NOAA to determine cause of death.
Andersen said external injuries were not visible, and the refuge hasn't received results yet on interior injuries. It could be weeks before the results are in.
Pygmy sperm whales, usually found in the Atlantic Ocean, are a deep-water species, which makes them very rare. Andersen said marine biologists do not know much about them.
Andersen said that if people find a stranded animal, they should not touch it or push it back into the water, but call the wildlife refuge.