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Why Do Whales Beach Themselves? Surprising Reasons [For Mass Strandings] 

It is hard to ignore when giant whales beach themselves and even sadder to watch. If stranded on a sandbar, some whales may die of dehydration or starvation. The lucky ones may wash up on a nearby beach, where rescuers are equipped to try to save them. It makes me curious, why do whales beach themselves?

So, why do whales beach themselves? Whale beachings occur when whales become stranded due to exhaustion, illness, injury, or some other cause. The majority of strandings occur at remote beaches where there is little human activity.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 315 whales beached themselves from January to August 2017. Whales beaching themselves is a phenomenon that has occurred for thousands of years. Whales beach themselves when they become trapped in shallow water or when they can’t find their way back to the ocean. The cause of beaching whales is mysterious; scientists are currently trying to learn more about it.

Even at the time of this writing, according to The Guardian, are 500 pilot whales that beached themselves on New Zealand islands and have little chance to live (Source). So this is not a new phenomenon at all, although the frequency is suspect.

Why Do Whales Beach Themselves? Surprising Reasons For Mass Strandings

Sometimes whales beach themselves because their food supply has dried up. They find a beach or harbor, lie down to rest, and can’t stir themselves back up again. Often they are spotted by fishermen who rescue them.

Let’s take a deeper look at why scientists think whales beach themselves and what happens once beached. Keep on reading!

Why Do Whales Beach Themselves?

Reasons Why Whales Beach Themselves

– Environmental changes

– Noise pollution

– Orca’s intentional beaching

– Human activities

Consequences of Whale Beachings

A whale that beaches itself is likely to die. The animal will become dehydrated and overheat, as well as suffer from the weight of its own body on the sand. If the tide does not come in and cover the whale, it will eventually die from exposure.

How to Prevent Whale Beachings

Whale beachings are still poorly understood, but they may be linked to human behavior and environmental vices. Reducing military sonar surveys could help reduce whale beachings caused by humans. The journal “Journal of Mammalogy” published a study that Navy sonar may be responsible for the deaths of whales and dolphins. The study suggests that Navy sonar may be causing health problems for whales and dolphins, beyond the “smoking gun” of sonar exposure causing physical damage.

What Are Mass Strandings?

Why Do They Happen?

There are a number of possible causes of mass strandings. One possibility is that the whales become sick or injured and are unable to swim properly. Another possibility is that the whales become disoriented and end up in shallow water where they can’t swim. Finally, it’s possible that the whales beach themselves because they are family-oriented and want to stay close to their group.

Whatever the cause, mass strandings are a problem that is happening more and more around the world. This is likely due to humans making the ocean too crowded for whales to live. When whales beach themselves, they often die from compression of their organs because they can’t live on solid ground.

Humpback whales are particularly prone to mass strandings. In recent years, there have been a number of cases of humpback whales beaching themselves in areas near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The largest mass whale beaching on record took place on the Chatham Islands of New Zealand in 1918, when 1,000 sperm whales stranded themselves onshore.

Interestingly, other sea creatures wash up on the beach. For instance, jellyfish wash up on the beach during the summer as a result of the ocean currents or a storm. Scientists have several theories as well.

How Often Do They Occur?

There is no one answer to this question as mass strandings can occur for a variety of reasons and in many different locations. However, some species of cetaceans are more prone to mass strandings than others, and they often happen when these animals’ normal habitat or social organization is disrupted.

Are All Strandings Fatal?

Mass strandings are when a large number of animals beach themselves. These events can be fatal for the animals involved, but not always. Scientists believe that strandings may be a sign of a healthy population, as they can be indicative of a population’s growth or recovery.

What Research Is Being Done to Help Stranded Whales?

Necropsies and strandings help scientists learn about difficult-to-study species, and can offer insights into an animal’s life, diet, health, and more. Strandings can also be a good sign for a species’ population numbers. For example, the lack of orca strandings in Scotland reflects the small number of remaining orcas in that population – which is endangered. In contrast, the rise in humpback whale strandings in the UK indicates that this population has recovered since whaling was banned.

How Can You Help if You See a Beached Whale?

What Happens to Beached Whales?

When a whale becomes beached, it is in danger of overheating and drowning if it does not have access to water. If the whale is healthy enough, rescue teams may try to refloat it, but only if there is a chance that the animal can survive in the wild. Otherwise, the best option for the whale may be to take it into captivity. However, this is not always the best option for wild animals as they can often suffer from neglect or abuse in captivity.

Can Beached Whales Be Saved? Can You Save a Pilot Whale on The Beach?

Beached whales seldom survive, even if they are saved and returned to the water. It is very difficult to save beached whales and return them to the water. They don’t have the will to live any longer. It’s also difficult to move the beached whale without injuring it.

However, if you see a beached whale, there are some things you can do to help.

First, call for help from a local wildlife or conservation organization. These organizations will have experience dealing with beached whales and will know how to best handle the situation.

Next, try to keep the whale cool and calm. Cover its body with wet towels or sheets and keep its skin moistened with seawater. Do not pour water over the whale’s blowhole (the hole on top of its head).

Finally, do not attempt to push the whale back into the water yourself. This is extremely dangerous and should only be done by trained professionals.

How Do You Stop Whales from Beaching

It is important to keep the animal upright and wet and to cover it to prevent sunburn. If you are able, contact marine charities, the coast guard, or emergency services for assistance in releasing the animal safely. The best option for an animal in distress is to take it into captivity or euthanasia.

Should You Help Beached Whales

Yes, but with the help of the proper authorities. The first thing that should be done if you see a whale stranded is to call the local authorities. They will know what to do and how long the animal has been stranded. It’s best to stay out of the water because there may be sharks close by. Once the authorities arrive, they will take care of the animal and make sure that it gets back into the ocean safely.

How Long Can Beached Whale Survive

Beached whales are often in poor health and have little chance of survival. The main factors that determine how long a beached whale can survive are the severity of its injuries, the water temperature, and the availability of food.

Injuries: Beached whales often have severe injuries from being stranded on land. These injuries can include broken bones, dehydration, and sunburn.

Water Temperature: The water temperature can also affect how long a beached whale can survive. If the water is too cold, the whale may die from hypothermia. If the water is too hot, the whale may die from heat exhaustion.

Food: The availability of food is another factor that determines how long a beached whale can survive. If there is not enough food for the whale to eat, it will eventually starve to death.

Should You Push Beached Whale Back Into Water

If you find a beached whale, the best thing to do is to call for help. Rescuing stranded whales is a challenging and often dangerous task, so it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Several people are needed for each whale, and rescuers use harnesses and stretchers to keep them upright. The process of hunting and killing wild animals is dangerous and often arduous. Dead animals are dragged into the sea or buried onshore.


So there you have it, the best theories on whales beaching themselves and what can be done for the whales. Now you know why whales beach themselves and if it is something to be concerned about. Even though scientists don’t know precisely why the whales beach themselves, certain things should be done for beached whales to increase their chances of survival.