Orca whale dies after beaching itself on Florida coast

Flagler County Sheriff's Office/Cover Images

A 21-foot orca whale has died after beaching itself on the Florida coast.

Officers from Flagler County Sheriff's Office were called by members of the public on 11 January after the killer whale was discovered beached on Flagler County beach in Palm Coast, Florida.

The killer whale is the first ever to be stranded on Florida's beaches. Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the whale may have been alive when it was initially spotted, but had died before authorities arrived at the beach. Flager County officials believe the adult female whale weighs at least 7,000 pounds.

NOAA experts noted that killer whales are found throughout the world, but the event in Flagler County is "rare". There are two known stocks; one in the Atlantic and one in the Gulf of Mexico.

"There's actually two stocks of killer whales recognised, the Western North Atlantic stock and the Northern Gulf of Mexico stock and they've also been observed in the Bahamas and the wider Caribbean region," said Erin Fougeres.

NOAA leaders added that in the Northern Gulf of Mexico there are about 267 killer whales in the area. Rescue personnel from Sea World and the Florida Wildlife Commissions were called to assist with the removal of the whale, with the rescue operation taking over four hours. A necropsy will be performed on the orca.