Joe Skipper / Reuters file
A group of stranded short-finned pilot whales is guided by a boat (not shown) to deeper waters in Everglades National Park, Fla., on Dec. 5.
Several whales believed to be part of a pod that was stranded in Everglades National Park were found dead in the lower Florida Keys on Sunday, national wildlife officials said, raising the number of fatalities to 22 in the last week.
Wildlife workers discovered the latest 11 dead whales just after 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon on Snipe Point, roughly six miles north of Sugarloaf Key, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official Blair Mase.
The pod of 51 short-finned pilot whales was first found by a fishing guide near Tuesday in the shallow waters off Highland Beach, a remote section of the Everglades.
When park rangers responded, they discovered six whales dead on Wednesday morning, and another four had to be euthanized, according to the NOAA. Another whale died on Thursday.
Mase said crews and veterinary teams will try to determine the cause of the deaths — and if any disease was a factor.
"We expected this may happen," Mase said, according to NBC Miami. She added that the marine mammals did not show evidence of trauma.
Officials do not know the location or status of the remaining whales. The animals were last seen alive Friday, according to the Associated Press.
The short-finned pilot whale is known for its close-knit social groups: If one whale gets stuck or stays behind, the others are likely to stay or even beach themselves as well. Pilots are among the smaller of the whale species, with adult males reaching up to 18 feet in length and females 12 feet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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First published December 8 2013, 2:14 PM