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Mote Scientists investigating whale deaths in Southwest Florida

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Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014 5:08 pm | Updated: 2:50 pm, Fri Apr 25, 2014.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA - More dead whales are being found just south of the Suncoast. On Thursday, 25 pilot whales were found dead on a beach near Marco Island.  Local biologists with Mote Marine Laboratory are on scene trying to find out why.

The images of dozens of dead whales is shocking and sad for those like Paul Ryan. "Nope, never seen anything like it in my lifetime."

Especially on the Gulf Coast, where the ecology is so important. "I think it's everything down here next to having the nice weather."

The latest pod of dead whales found just to our south at place called Kice Island. Like many, local resident Joe Baum wants to know why. "My first thought is what's causing it. I don't know if scientists are going to get an answer."

Biologist Gretchen Lovewell with Mote is among those trying to help find out. "We don't know the answer to that yet. We are working really hard to try and figure out during our exams if these animals were sick and what they were being impacted by."

This is the second known stranding in just a few days. Earlier this week, eight other whales died in shallow waters near Ft. Myers Beach. In December, dozens more died near the Everglades National Park.

"We are looking for any indication of disease, different viruses, potential toxins. It's a huge list of things we look for."

Early indications show the whales had empty stomachs. Pilot whales are prone to mass strandings because they form close bonds and won't leave other sick whales behind. "It's just strange," says Ryan.

The necropsies are being done on the animals to hopefully determine the cause.

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