Mass stranding of Donegal Pilot Whales....UPDATED

23rd Nov 2010 23rd November UPDATE

With twenty seven pilot whale carcasses remaining on Rutland Island, there had been some concerns raised locally about how the bodies would be disposed of. Following meetings between Donegal County Council, local people and other stakeholders, it was decided that the carcasses would be removed from the island and transported to a licenced rendering premises - no small job as these photos (courtesy of John Rafferty) taken on the 18th November show....

16th November UPDATE

Since friday last (12th November) IWDG have been receiving further reports of pilot whales in Donegal, north and east of the original mass stranding on Rutland Island. As a number of the dead animals on Rutland had been washed out to sea by the recent storms, there was the possibility that these were the same animals restranding. However, when a dead pilot whale calf was found near Melmore Head some 50km away by sea, I was sure this must be a new stranding - until I saw photos which were sent in by Anna McLaughlin. Amongst the scavenger damage, one of the photos showed a distinct straight cut on the right lower jaw that just might have been caused by tissue sampling/removal of teeth.

There had been a c.2m male calf on Rutland and here was a c.2m male pilot whale calf with possible signs of tissue sampling but over 50km away! A quick call to local NPWS wildlife ranger David McNamara and by days end we had confirmation that distinct markings put on this carcasse during tissue sampling by Ian O'Connor of GMIT were indeed present. This is very interesting news as it suggests that hopefully the original mass stranding is not an ongoing event. It also surprised me just how far this dead pilot whale was carried by the prevailing winds and currents and emphasises the need for extra care when validating stranding records to avoid duplication. Once again, a big thank you to all who have helped out on this occasion.

Mick O'Connell,

IWDG Stranding Co-ordinator

13th November UPDATE

The following six fins have ben extracted from mass stranding for photo-id. We hope this will determine whether they are or not the pilot whales which nearly mass stranded on South Uist, Scotland.

If anybody has images from Scotland which might be useful in matching then please send to

9th November UPDATE

Out of a total 33 pilot whales, 19 were female, 12 were male and there was one calf which was also male. One animal was not sex