The National Parks and Wildlife Service are advising no further public intervention in the case of the pod of pilot whales beached outside of Falcarragh.
There was a strong effort by local people on Monday morning to try and save the 11 to 13 pilot whales that were beached on Ballyness Beach, outside of Falcarragh.
While most of the whales had been returned to the sea, it was believed that up to five of the whales were dead by mid-afternoon on Monday.
“The last report I had was certainly at least four or five were dead, but I would expect by now probably a lot more are dead, or if not they are close to dying,” Dave Duggan, regional manager with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said. Two of the service’s conservation rangers have been on site since about 10.30am on Monday, as have staff of Donegal County Council.
As news spread, large crowds of people also gathered on the beach to observe the scene.
Mr. Duggan that pilot whales are known for mass stranding behaviour. There have been previous incidents on the Donegal coast and around Ireland, as well as internationally.
The regional manager acknowledged that the event was distressing for those who witness it, but said not much could be done.
“There is very little you can do to help them,” he said. “Attempts to refloat them are often not successful and can cause the animals distress, but also, critically, they can put people in danger.”
He said the service was urging people not to take any risks to help, because past experience and research showed that refloating is usually unsuccessful in the longer run. Some of the pilot whales refloated on Monday morning later came in at Magheraroarty Strand, he said.
Mr. Duggan called the incident an unfortunate but natural event, and said it was best to allow the whales to die in peace.
The whales had been spotted on the beach by a man who was out jogging in the morning, and an alarm was raised at about 8.30am. Local people gathered at the beach to try and help the whales, with some people pouring buckets of water over the large mammals. A JCB was brought to the strand to help move the whales back into the water and teams of people took to the water to guide them.
Local Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill, who helped to organise the efforts of local people on Monday morning, said the communities of Falcarragh and Gortahork pulled together to try to guide the whales back out to sea. Some of the whales weighed up to six tons.
However, Cllr. Ó Domhnaill said that a number of the whales refloated on Monday morning had later returned to the shore and only one or two of the pod may survive.
“We did everything we could,” he said. The best thing people can do now, is to do nothing, the councillor said.