Five whales found stranded on South Carolina beach; at least four are dead

South Carolina wildlife officials say five pilot whales were found stranded on Edisto Beach Saturday morning.

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Beachgoers found the mammals on the shore and tried to rescue them, but four of the whales died and at least two of them were calves.

Officials said one of the whales was dead before crews could get to the beach to help and some of them had to be put down because they were too sick or injured.

Authorities said trying to return the whales back to the water would likely have prolonged their suffering.

"The most important thing is to understand why we don't push animals back to shore, back to water. There's a tendency to want to get them back to sea, but, again, they just strand for a reason, so we encourage people to leave them be and just call authorities as quickly as possible. We kept them cool and shaded as long as we could," Lauren Rust with Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network said.

It is unclear exactly how they died.

Earlier this week, about 26 pilot whales became stranded on St. Catherine's Island in Georgia, and of those, 15 died.

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