Pilot Whales Beach Themselves on St. Simons Island

Crews consisting of Georgia DNR, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and volunteers work to guide a whale to an area shallow enough to be assessed
Social Circle, GA

A group of pilot whales involved in strandings Tuesday that left three of them dead along St. Simons Island was seen offshore Wednesday. While further strandings are possible, Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists hope the threat to this pod has passed.

Update (July 17, 2019): The group of pilot whales involved in the stranding on St. Simons Island Tuesday evening was seen swimming offshore Wednesday. Brunswick boat pilots spotted the whales Wednesday morning. As of that afternoon, the pod had moved farther off-shore. It was monitored by the National Marine Mammal Foundation, a partner with DNR in dolphin research. DNR also checked area beaches, marshes and waterways by helicopter but no other stranded animals were found. In all, three pilot whales died.

DNR’s Clay George, a senior wildlife biologist who leads the agency’s work with marine mammals, is “cautiously optimistic” that the threat of strandings from this pod of pilot whales has passed. But DNR is continuing to monitor beaches and the public is encouraged to report marine mammal strandings to 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (July 16, 2019) – Multiple pilot whales repeatedly tried to beach themselves on St. Simons Island today, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 

“While stranding is a known natural occurrence, the only thing we can do is to continue pushing them out to sea,” DNR senior wildlife Clay George said.

Personnel from the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, DNR Coastal Resources Division, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Glynn County Emergency Management and others participated in efforts to push several beached whales back out to sea, with some animals continuing to return to the beach. While some of the pilot whales in the pod, or group, were successfully pushed back out, two had died as of Tuesday. The whales will be necropsied (an autopsy of animals).

The remaining whales in the pod were last seen Tuesday swimming in the sound, and it is hoped they will continue to keep moving out to sea.

Among cetaceans—the order of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises—pilot whales are the most common species known to strand in mass numbers.

For more information on wildlife in Georgia, visit www.georgiawildlife.com.