On Sunday 15th March at approximately 8am, BDMLR received a call from a local resident of Pettycur, Fife, who had come across a live stranded cetacean while out walking his dog on the beach. The man identified the animal only as a large dolphin or small whale, the description of which sounded like it was most likely a small minke whale, a species often found in the northern North Sea.
A text alert was sent out to our Fife and Stirlingshire trained Marine Mammal Medics, and within 15 minutes a group of seven volunteers were on their way, the first ones arriving just 15 minutes later. Meanwhile another Medic headed north to Dundee to collect our nearest equipment trailer containing vital rescue kit.
By 9am, the team had all arrived on scene and met up with three members of HM Coastguard, who had also been alerted to the stranded animal and had arrived ahead of the BDMLR team to secure the area. The Medics carried out an assessment and started to make the animal comfortable on the beach to reduce stress, wetted the animal to protect the skin, monitored the breathing rate and documented injuries.
A full assessment was carried out on the whale and it was found to be a female measuring 3.9 meters long, and likely to still be maternally dependant. To refloat the calf without her mother would not be appropriate, as she would not survive since she would be entirely dependent on her milk and would cause prolonged suffering until death. The rescue teams on shore had been scanning the area constantly for any sign of an adult whale, but this was made increasingly difficult due the choppy sea state and strong winds, and sadly there was no sign of her at all after some time spent searching.
With all the information to hand, advice was sought from the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme veterinarian and also from BDMLR consultant vet James Barnett, and they agreed that to put the animal back into the sea would not be in the best interests of its welfare, suggesting euthanasia would be the only option.
At around midday, with most of the team stood down and under the supervision of a vet, the animal was humanely despatched. The body was secured on scene and responsibility handed over the SMASS who will carry out a postmortem examination at a later date.
We would like to thank all our volunteer Medics, SMASS personnel and the HM Coastguard team who attended this very difficult incident and who conducted themselves with great professionalism in the face of the circumstances that they were presented with.