Whales from a pod which became stranded twice on a beach in Donegal have little chance of survival, experts have said.
Thirteen long-finned pilot whales first beached near Falcarragh some time on Sunday night or Monday morning before a group of about 100 locals managed to return nine to shallow waters.
Four of those that originally came ashore died on the beach.
But a number of whales which were initially rescued, most about five metres long, stranded a second time several hours later around high tide further along the beach on Ballyness Bay.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) warned that the re-floated whales were likely to be in poor condition, with stiffened muscles, unable to keep themselves upright in the sea and confused and disorientated.
“If you could pluck them out of there and set them gently into deep water and hold them their until their muscles relaxed they’d have some chance,” IWDG member Mick O’Connell said.
“People are bringing them out and the water is only four or five feet deep. They are not going to make a beeline for the deep water, chances are they do not know where it is.”
One of the whales, which was initially returned safely, appeared to have blemishes and lumps on its skin suggesting it may have been ill and led the pod into the shallow waters the first time.
The natural environment for a long-finned pilot whale is in a pod, in deep water, out near the continental shelf in the Atlantic.
Mr O’Connell said the creatures’ echo-location may also be hampered by the shallow waters on the gently sloping beach off Falcarragh and that it is extremely difficult to save a pod of whales, even with the right equipment.
A post-mortem within 24-48 hours would be the only way of telling if one or all of the pod had been struck by an illness.
The IWDG said the incident is the 13th stranding reported on Donegal shores this year.