The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales gives useful advice on what to do if you see a whale, dolphin or porpoise on a beach.

If you find a live whale, dolphin or porpoise:

A whale, dolphin or porpoise stranded on the beach is obviously not a usual phenomenon. These animals do not beach themselves under normal circumstances, and they will require assistance. Please do not return them to the sea as they may need a period of recovery before they are fit enough to swim strongly.

Important things you can do to help are:

  • If you can, call a specialist marine animal rescue team.
  • Provide essential first aid
  • Support the animal in an upright position and dig trenches under the pectoral fins
  • Cover the animal with wet sheets or towels (even seaweed) and keep it moist by spraying or dousing with water
  • Do NOT cover, or let any water pass down the blowhole (nostril), sited on top of the animal’s head. This will cause the animal great distress and could even kill it
  • Every movement around a stranded animal should be quiet, calm and gentle. Excessive noise and disturbance will only stress it further
  • Estimate the length of the animal and look for any distinguishing feature that may give clues as to the species you are dealing with
  • Look for any signs of injury and count the number of breaths (opening of the blowhole) that occur over a minute – this can give important clues as to how stressed the animal is
  • Take great care when handling a dolphin, porpoise or whale; keep away from the tail, as it can inflict serious injuries – this is particularly the case with whales and it is advisable to leave handling larger whales until experienced help has arrived. Avoid the animal’s breath, as it may carry some potentially nasty bacteria
  • Don’t release the animal into the sea before the rescue team has arrived. It is fine to support a smaller dolphin or porpoise in the water, as long as the blowhole is kept above the water at all times, and as long as it is carried to the water carefully, e.g. in a tarpaulin (do NOT drag it or lift it by its fins or tail). However, actually releasing the animal before it has received an assessment and first aid from experienced personnel can do more harm than good

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