Necropsies began Friday morning, Jan. 24 on 25 dead pilot whales that were discovered the day before near Kice Island in southwest Florida.
The 16 females and nine males were from a pod of whales first seen swimming around Gordon Pass in Naples in Collier County on Sunday, Jan. 19, NOAA Fisheries Southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator Blair Mase said.
Biologists marked the whales, which were spotted again off Marco Pass near Marco Island that Monday. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat stayed with the group for much of Monday, when they were two miles off-shore, before officials stopped monitoring them.
But early Thursday afternoon, officials received a report from a boater who saw the whales on Kice Island, Mase said.
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Mase said the whales came in on the high seas and were beached on Kice Island. It is on the south side of Caxambas Pass, which divides Marco Island and Kice Island, NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Kim Amendola said. They were discovered 16 miles south of where they were originally spotted on Sunday.
A FWC field biologist went out and confirmed that the whales were all dead, and had been there for about 24 hours, Mase said. The biologist was accompanied by FWC law enforcement.
Officials initially said that about 20 whales were found, before NOAA Fisheries gave an increased death toll of 25 late Thursday afternoon.
Earlier in the week, four pilot whales died and four more were euthanized around Lover’s Key near Fort Myers in Lee County.
Mase said the necropsies on those eight whales were completed Wednesday. Some of the whales looked emaciated, and some appeared to be in decent condition, she said.
"They did all have empty stomachs, which is something that we were suspecting," she said.
Five of the whales were males and three were females, including one that was pregnant, Amendola said.
In December, 51 pilot whales were found stranded in Everglades National Park, and 22 of them died. No cause of deaths has been determined yet for those whales, Mase said Thursday.