A group of marine animal rescuers successfully freed a juvenile gray whale that has been stranded for three days on the shore of a remote beach in Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
The 24-foot, one-and-a-half to two-year-old whale, which weighed in at 9,000 pounds, miraculously survived its predicament two days longer than an adult of its species could under a similar stranding. Its rescue was a very rare situation, even according to experts.
Wildlife rescuers worked tirelessly to build trenches and use a pulley system to bring the juvenile closer to the water using a harness and, at some point, even believed that their efforts were futile since even the juvenile seemed a bit uncooperative. However, things took a turn for the better when the whale was pulled to 4-feet deep waters and the harness was released later into the night.
"The mission at one point seemed like it was failing with little progress made and the whale not seeming to be able to help and even appearing to turn back toward shore. Then, at the last possible moment ... the whale started to swim," Cascadia Research Collective's John Calambokidis recounted.
"This is a very rare case. Super rare. Everyone around the country is really interested in how the whale was rescued," wildlife veterinarian Lesanna Lahner said.
Lahner, who was part of the rescue efforts for the juvenile beached whale, attributed its survival to its size and explained that a bigger whale would have died quickly in similar conditions since its immense weight would have crushed its skeletal system and add stress to its heart. She added that stranded whales need immediate medical attention because of the said conditions.
Medical Attention For The Juvenile
According to reports, Lahner and fellow respondent Dyanna Lambourn, a Wildlife marine mammal biologist, administered sugar, B-vitamins, anti-inflammatories, and Valium to the juvenile in order to help its body cope with the stress of the stranding.
"When wild animals are stranded, it's like they've been abducted by aliens. Not only are they on shore, but they're seeing humans walking around. It's emotionally scary," Lahner explained.
Park officials say they will survey the area just in case another stranding occurs and, while that sounds pessimistic, it is actually based on a previous experience wherein a rescued whale became stranded (and refloated) two more times after the initial rescue.
The successful whale rescue was a collective effort of rescuers from Olympic National Park, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Cascadia Research Collective, and SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research (SR3).