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Whale dies despite help from a marine network

It lived about 26 hours after being beached

Corpus Christi Caller Times
By Tim Eaton
23rd May 2003

A whale died at 12:35 p.m. Thursday, about 26 hours after it was pulled from the surf at Padre Island National Seashore.

Around-the-clock care couldn't save the 7-foot, 330-pound black melon-headed whale.

Volunteers and supervisors from the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network rushed to mile marker 31 on the seashore Wednesday morning when a turtle patrol volunteer saw the whale in the shallows. They took the mature female to a rehabilitation tank owned by the Texas State Aquarium.

Lea Walker, acting local coordinator of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, said Thursday that she was not certain what caused the whale to strand itself.

"We know she had a very bad intestinal problem," Walker said. "As far as what caused the problem, we didn't really know."

Walker said Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network supervisors would take the carcass to the network's headquarters in Galveston. Scientists will perform a necropsy, the animal version of an autopsy.

Theresa Mitchell and Teri Gonzalez were in the rehab tank with the whale when it died.

Both women said it is impossible not to feel attached to the sick marine mammals that come into their care.

Barry Phillips, another volunteer and board member, also talked about the sadness in the hours after the whale died.

"You just can't help getting attached when you get into the tank and stare it in the eye," he said. "Your heart goes out and you start caring for the animal immediately."

Phillips, Mitchell and Gonzalez agreed that the loss of one mammal would not deter their drive to save as many as possible.

Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network staff supervisor David Williams effort has two purposes - to save the sea mammals and to learn as much from them as they can in life and death.

"The whole thing is a learning experience," he said, though the sorrow was evident in his voice and expressions.

Contact Tim Eaton at _886-3794 or