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A Second Chance for a Rescued Pilot Whale

August 11, 2017
Five partners working together. 38 days of rehabilitation. 140 mile trek out to sea. And a happy ending.

A female short-finned pilot whale has a second chance at life after five weeks of rehabilitation and a 140 mile boat ride.


The 725 lb. whale beached herself in Dixie County, FL on July 1. Discovered by beach goers, teams from the University of Florida and Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescued and transported her to our rehabilitation facility for continued medical care.

Upon arrival, our team initiated around-the-clock care. She responded quickly to treatment from our veterinarian team and began to show signs of improvement almost immediately.

Together with NOAA, our Animal Rescue Team quickly made arrangements to return her back to her natural environment. First step was determining a return location. Plans were made to release her 140 miles off the West Coast of Florida in an area known to be populated by pilot whale pods. Next step was securing a large enough vessel to transport her and the team. This is when the U.S. Coast Guard stepped in. To ensure the pilot whale was returned safely and carefully, the U.S. Coast Guard assisted with the complex transport.

With all of the logistics in order it was time for the team to head out for the return. On Tuesday morning, August 8, the pilot whale, nicknamed “Gale” by the USCG crew, was successfully returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

Just prior to her release, the pilot whale was satellite tagged by researchers with the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. The tag will allow researchers and rescuers to track her movements and dive patterns for the next several months. 

 Stay tuned for continued updates on “Gale” as we receive information from NOAA and the teams tracking her.