A juvenile sperm whale died on Sunday afternoon — hours after it was found alive, stuck in the shallow waves of a beach in Ocean City, Maryland.
The 15-foot-long marine mammal was first discovered by local residents, CBS Baltimore reported, around 6:45 a.m. near High Point North and 114th Street.
The locals quickly contacted authorities, who brought in the Marine Animal Rescue team from the National Aquarium in Baltimore to help.
Though the whale was still alive just before 11 a.m., when veterinarians arrived on the scene, the animal was pronounced dead just before 1:30 p.m.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered at the scene, documenting rescue attempts on their social media accounts and attempting to push the whale back into the water (though experts say if you see an animal in distress, giving it space and contacting a trained wildlife first responder is the best thing to do).
Later, the Ocean City Police Department, in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), removed the deceased whale from the beach.
According to a statement from the National Aquarium obtained by the Associated Press, the DNR will preform an animal autopsy (or a necropsy) to learn more about why the animal ended up stranded on the beach.
Experts said the animal appeared to be “extremely underweight,” CNN reported.
Sperm whales are listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The whales spend most of their time swimming in deep ocean waters, and typically become stranded after they are injured or have contracted an illness.