Pilot whale calf washes up at WA’s Eagle Bay a day after mass stranding

Headshot of Lauren Price
Lauren Price
The Nightly
A pod of whales beached themselves at Toby Inlet near Dunsborough, WA.
A pod of whales beached themselves at Toby Inlet near Dunsborough, WA. Credit: Matt Henderson

A pilot whale calf has washed up at WA’s Eagle Bay — close to where a mass stranding occurred on Thursday — and a small pod has been spotted off the coast nearby.

A spokesperson for the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said it had received reports of one juvenile pilot whale at Eagle Bay beach in Dunsborough and would continue to monitor its welfare.

A shark alert has also been issued after one dead pilot whale washed up at nearby Quindalup Beach.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

“The City of Busselton has closed Quindalup Beach and is working with our staff to manage the removal of one deceased whale washed up at Quindalup Beach this morning,” the spokesperson said.

Steve Tribbeck chatting with a wildlife officer.
Steve Tribbeck chatting with a wildlife officer. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

“The community is encouraged to stay away from the subject beaches and the water.

“Anyone wanting to register as a volunteer or report sightings of stranded whales can call the Parks and Wildlife Service Busselton office on 9752 5555.

The whales were spotted by a plane which flew over the area on Friday morning to monitor the situation.

Almost 30 of the animals died in the mass stranding event, which saw about 160 long-finned pilot whales had beached at Toby Inlet, near Dunsborough and Busselton.

DBCA wildlife officers, volunteers, and vets from Perth Zoo worked to save the whales and managed to redirect the majority of the animals back to sea, however, 29 died onshore.

Between 50 and 100 pilot whales were stranded at Toby’s Inlet near Dunsborough.
Between 50 and 100 pilot whales were stranded at Toby’s Inlet near Dunsborough. Credit: Oliver Lane/South Western Times

Authorities continue to monitor the distressing situation on Friday, with a spotter plane deployed to fly over deeper waters to check on whether the pod look to be returning to shore.

It was reported about 110 were around 1.5km offshore and were heading north on Thursday.

Boats deployed by the department had so far been successful in preventing the mammals from re-stranding.

On Thursday afternoon, rescuers had the grim task of removing some of the carcasses — most of which were adult females — from the shallow water.

Rescuers had the grim task of removing some of the carcasses.
Rescuers had the grim task of removing some of the carcasses. Credit: Matt Henderson

Some were pouring water on the distressed mammals in a bid to keep them alive.

DBCA officer Pia Courtis explained pilot whales have been known to strand along the WA coast and warned the outcome for them was generally “not good” explaining a high number of them usually died.

She said it was still unclear why the whales had come so far into shore — as with most mass strandings — but that they were using some of the things they learned from the stranding event at Cheynes Beach last year.

More than 50 whales beached themselves on July 25 with locals reporting the pod had grouped together offshore beforehand. Another 40 had to be euthanised.

Ms Courtis also said it was important the dead whales were removed from the beach to stop the others from trying to reach them.

Pilot whales are said to have strong social connections, and it is thought to be a factor in why others in a pod will follow when one beaches itself.

Dr Joshua Smith, a marine biologist and senior research fellow at Murdoch University, said while mass strandings are common, researchers still haven’t been able to figure out exactly why whales beach themselves.

“And that’s because every stranding event is relatively unique,” he said. “It’s a complex situation. That has, in many cases, unique factors, including the location, the species involved, the numbers of animals, the animals response in the stranding as well.

“So for example, in this particular case, my understanding is there’s several relatively large groups that are still offshore and we’ve had a number of individuals that have stranded on shore. Unfortunately, we’ve also had a number of deaths as well, which is extremely sad.

“I guess the the interesting thing with having some of the animals still alive...is very encouraging.

“But as I said, they’re they have very strong social groups. So they’re going to be very distressed themselves.

“They’re going to be trying to keep in relatively tight groups themselves so that they can keep together. In terms of how they respond to those that have already beached, that’ll be an interesting thing to see unfold as the event plays out.”


Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 23-07-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 23 July 202423 July 2024

Australia’s top cyber cop lashes big tech firms for profiting from alarming scourge amid calls for further action on online image abuse.