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Rescue attempt for stranded whales in Eastham ‘on hold,’ officials say

Of the six pilot whales stranded Monday evening, one was succesfully refloated and one died overnight

The International Fund for Animal Welfare sent a team of rescuers to help six pilot whales that were stranded in Eastham.IFAW

Attempts to rescue several long-finned pilot whales that were stranded in Eastham on Monday was suspended Tuesday evening, as rescue teams reevaluate, officials said.

One of the six whales, a calf, died overnight, Five of the surviving whales were refloated just before 4 p.m. on Tuesday, but four of them turned back towards shore, according to Stacey Hedman, a spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Rescue efforts for the remaining four whales had been halted by 5 p.m., Hedman said.

“The reality is that we cannot celebrate a success yet this evening,” said Misty Niemeyer, a rescue coordinator for the Yarmouth-based group, in a statement. “One animal is now offshore, but the others did not follow.”

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Niemeyer said that rescuers would reevaluate the situation on Wednesday.

“The team is exhausted,” she said. “Large animals can be quite dangerous to work around, and it’s for our health as well as tomorrow’s continued efforts that we need to call it a day today.”

The whales were first seen swimming dangerously close to shore north of Sunken Meadow Beach around 4:45 p.m. on Monday, Hedman said. When they became stranded, they were examined briefly and two were tagged with trackers.

Rescuers were continuing to “provide supportive care until the tides are more favorable, which we estimate around 3:20 p.m. [on Tuesday],” she said.

Brian Sharp, the organization’s director of marine mammal rescue and research, said in a statement that the largest of the whales is believed to weigh almost two tons, or 4,000 pounds.

“Right now, we just need the tide to come in and help us refloat because these animals are so large,” he said. “So we’re doing everything we can right now to give these animals a shot at the best outcome.”

The rescue team has been responding to reports of stranded marine animals along more than 700 miles of coastline in southeastern Massachusetts since 1998, according to the group’s website.

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Anyone who finds a live or dead stranded marine mammal on Cape Cod or southeastern Massachusetts can call IFAW’s marine mammal rescue hotline at 508-743-9548. For more information, visit ifaw.org/strandings.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare sent a team of rescuers to help six pilot whales that were stranded in Eastham. IFAW



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22. Camilo Fonseca can be reached at camilo.fonseca@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @fonseca_esq.