A whale beached itself on Hilton Head Island Saturday afternoon, possibly after it was attacked by a shark, according to Shore Beach Services.
The animal was euthanized around 7pm, said Wayne McFee, a research wildlife biologist with the National Oceans Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The approximately 9 foot long Pygmy sperm whale was not in good health, McFee said. "It was emaciated, not in robust healthy condition," he said.
A lifeguard reported seeing what looked like a shark attacking the animal shortly before 3 p.m., north of Coligny Beach, operations manager Mike Wagner said. When the injured animal came ashore, the agency realized it was a Pygmy sperm whale, which are about the size of a dolphin, Wagner said.
Wagner contacted Jessica Conway of the S.C. Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Charleston.
The whale was still alive about 5 p.m., and a veterinarian was on the way to the beach. Wagner said the animal's wounds seem superficial.
McFee said a necropsy would be performed Sunday to help determine why the whale died. He said he could not say whether the whale beached itself because it had been attacked by a shark. While it did have evidence of shark bites on it that is not uncommon.
Reached Saturday afternoon, Conway referred questions to her supervisor. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. -->
Shore Beach Services cleared the water for half an hour after the incident, Wagner said. The shark was not seen again.