The remains of 72 dolphins were discovered Saturday afternoon, and according to officials, one whale was spotted alive, while another 13 remain unaccounted for. Nine of the animals were humanely euthanized.
Dr. Erin Fougeres, of NOAA Fisheries, told an NBC Miami affiliate, "There was unfortunately not much that we could do for them. They were high and dry on very wide mud flats and trapped in mangroves. So it was a very unfortunate situation," and, "It's in a very very challenging location. It's very remote in the far western Everglades. About an hour to an hour and a half by boat to get there."
No boats or flyovers are allowed near the scene as the National Park Service has closed off the area for safety reasons. Necropsies are being performed on the deceased dolphins and a team is taking samples from the scene. The cause for the stranding and subsequent deaths is still unknown.
Resembling the orca whale, false killer whales are very social creatures who have been known to strand in large groups, can grow up to 20 feet long and can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds. Florida has seen two other false killer whale strandings, one 1986 incident in Key West involving 28 dolphins and another near Tampa in 1989 at Cedar Key with 49 animals, only three of which were beached.
Dr. Fougeres noted, "It's the largest mass stranding we've had in of this species in the US." NOAA Fisheries’ investigation is ongoing.