A pod of 95 of the dolphins, which are black in color and look like killer whales without white markings, became stranded in the Gulf Coast off Everglades National Park, the park said on Twitter.
Photos on social media showed dozens of these dolphins, some grouped in clusters of four or five, just a few feet from a sandy beach lined with trees.
"Sadly, 81 have already been confirmed dead," Everglades National Park said Monday, adding that marine mammal rescue operations were being carried out.
The dolphins had become "deeply embedded in some of the mangroves making response efforts extremely difficult," Blair Mase, a stranding coordinator with NOAA's fisheries service, said in the Miami Herald newspaper.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that of the remaining dolphins, one had been seen alive and 13 others were unaccounted for.
While 72 had died on their own, rescuers put down nine that were too sick to survive, Mase said.
The stranded dolphins include adults, juveniles and calves, and were first spotted Saturday in an area called Hog Key, part of a string of islands, according to the Herald.
False killer whales can be found in large groups of more than one hundred in warm waters across the globe. They have long, slender bodies and narrow, tapered heads with rounded snouts.
They are much smaller and less aggressive than their distant relative, the Orca, or killer whale. Like Orcas, scientists classify them as dolphins rather than whales.
The phenomenon of strandings and the causes remain the subject of scientific debate.
The National Park Service has closed the area surrounding the dolphins to flyovers and boats.
|© Provided by AFP. Pods of false killer whales have previously been stranded after gettng beached in shallow waters, such as in this 2009 instance near the Australian city of Perth|
More than 80 false killer whales die in largest stranding in Florida history
Almost 100 false killer whales became stranded on a remote beach in Florida over the weekend, the largest mass stranding of the mammals in the state's history, officials said on Monday.
Stuck in the mangroves, most of the animals either died or had to be euthanized.
Despite their threatening name, false killer whales largely feed on fish and cephalopods and are part of the dolphin family. The mammals are known to travel in large groups.
On Saturday, officials found 95 of them stranded near the western boundary of Everglades National Park, north of Highland Beach. They ranged from young calves to mature adults, which can weigh about 1,500 pounds.
Efforts to herd the animals into deeper water were unsuccessful, as the mammals had become deeply embedded in the mangroves, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Of the 95 whales spotted, 82 have died: Most died on their own, while about 10 beached animals were euthanized by scientists after being found in "extremely poor" condition.
As of Monday, 13 animals remained unaccounted for.
The remote location of the stranding caused difficulties for the rescue efforts. The beach did not have cell service, said Blair Mase, a NOAA coordinator. That made communication between and within different departments difficult.
"These animals were stranded in a very remote location, very far offshore, and we are dealing with sharks and things like that," Mase said. "So it's a very safety-conscious effort."
Researchers are looking into the cause of the mass stranding.
Mass strandings are not uncommon for the species in Florida, though the size of this incident was the largest in recent history. In 1986, 28 false killer whales were stranded on Key West, and in 1989, 40 were stranded in Cedar Key.
More than 80 false killer whales dead in massive stranding
Dozens of false killer whales are dead after a massive group stranding in Everglades National Park over the weekend.
Everglades National Park officials said on Facebook Monday that a total of 95 false killer whales were spotted in a remote part of the park on Saturday. Rescue officials were able to reach the whales Sunday and tried to move them to deeper water, but many were deeply embedded in the mangroves, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials told The Palm Beach Post.
“Sadly, 81 have already been confirmed dead,” the park said on Facebook Monday.
Park officials uploaded aerial photos showing the dark outlines of the false killer whales. Some of the whales were stranded in small groups and others alone.
False killer whales get their name from their resemblance to orcas. While they may look like killer whales, they are a member of the dolphin family.
According to the Palm Beach Post, this is only the third time false killer whales have become stranded in Florida.