Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 09:46 AM EDT

After Shark Attack, Mother and Newborn Sperm Whales are Put Down on Neptune Beach

Apr 14, 2015 01:25 PM EDT

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A story that should have celebrated the birth of another whale into the world ended in tragedy Monday, after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made the decision to put two sperm whales down. Though often rapid response units are able to successful push whales back out to shore after a brief beaching, the circumstances surrounding the beaching led local officials to make the life-or-death decision.

After reports of a local incident with a shark, crews with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded to the shore of Neptune Beach, Florida to attend to a newborn baby sperm whale and its mother who had washed ashore. But the beaching was far from the normal case. Born earlier that day, officials believe that the mother and child may have become stranded after the baby's birth was interrupted by a local shark.

"What may have happened was [that] the mother was giving birth this morning near shore and a shark was in the area" Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Cheyanne Ruben says. "Witnesses did report to us seeing a commotion where the shark may have been interacting with the adult female."

The mother sustained significant injuries, and though the calf did not, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made the decision to euthanize both the calf and the mother only hours after its birth. Spokespersons say that the stranding events can often be very stressful for the animals, and though the calf was born in good health its chances of survival without its mother would have been almost impossible. 

As solitary marine mammals that typically do not do well in captivity, the commission decided that it be in the best interest of the animals for them to be peacefully put down.

"It was ill-advised to put the animals back into the water with a potential shark being there and a new neonate calf" Ruben says. "There could have been other reasons why the adult [female] stranded, as well."

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