Dozens of Beached Whales Died in Scotland This Weekend

This follows a larger stranding last year in Australia

Pilot whale
A pilot whale in the wild.
Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

This month brings sad news out of Scotland for anyone concerned about the stability and growth of whale populations in the wild. The Guardian reports that, on the morning of July 17, local authorities arrived on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides to find that a pod of pilot whales had beached themselves there. All told, this involved over 50 whales, many of whom died in the process; the bulk of the rest were euthanized.

Two of the whales were successfully moved into the water, with one of them venturing back out to sea. The other, The Guardian reports, beached itself again and later died.

As per a statement from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, experts are not entirely sure why the whales did what they did, though they do have one hypothesis. “One of the dead whales appeared to have had a vaginal prolapse — so it’s currently suspected that the whole pod stranded due to one female giving birth,” the organization stated. “Pilot whales are notorious for their strong social bonds, so often when one whale gets into difficulty and strands, the rest follow.”

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As unnerving as this event is, it’s also not the largest example of a mass stranding on the part of pilot whales in the last year. That unfortunate distinction is held by an event that took place in September 2022 in Australia, when 230 pilot whales beached themselves. The vast majority of the whales — around 200 total — died as a result.

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