The Latest: Biologist: Whales moving away from Georgia coast

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Georgia Department of Natural Resources personnel and beachgoers struggle to keep a short-fin pilot whale from crashing into the seawall on St. Simons Island, Ga., Tuesday, July16, 2019. Dozens of pilot whales beached themselves on a Georgia shore and most were rescued by authorities and onlookers who pulled the animals further into the water. (Bobby Haven /The Brunswick News via AP)

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on efforts to keep a group of pilot whales from beaching themselves in Georgia (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

A state biologist in Georgia says dozens of pilot whales appear to be heading back to sea a day after many of them came perilously close to swimming ashore and beaching themselves.

Clay George of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said the pod of whales was about 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) offshore Wednesday afternoon. He says conservationists following the whales counted at least 45 and he’s “cautiously optimistic” they will keep moving away from the coast.

Three whales became stranded and died when the pod appeared Tuesday off the beach of St. Simons Island. Beachgoers helped lifeguards and wildlife officials keep most of the pod in the water.

George says pilot whales typically keep about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the Georgia coast. The American Cetacean Society says pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings, partly due to their social nature.

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1:10 p.m.

Crews are keeping a close watch on about 30 pilot whales off the Georgia coast a day after the large animals were prevented from swimming ashore and beaching themselves.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources spokesman Rick Lavender said the pod of whales remained offshore Wednesday afternoon. He says the agency has a boat with conservationists from National Marine Mammal Foundation following the whales. A helicopter searched for more stranded whales by air and found none.

Three pilot whales died Tuesday after becoming stranded when the pod appeared along the beach of St. Simons Island. Wildlife workers, lifeguards and beachgoers kept most of the whales off the shore.

The American Cetacean Society says pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings, partly due to their social nature.

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10:45 a.m.

A state biologist says beachgoers in Georgia helped keep about 30 pilot whales from stranding themselves on the shore.

Clay George with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says the whales showed up Tuesday afternoon off the beach at St. Simons Island.

Three whales beached themselves and died. But George says onlookers helped authorities wade into the water to prevent most of the whales from reaching shore.

George said harbor pilots Wednesday morning spotted the whales in the nearby shipping channel, where he hoped they would follow the tide out to sea.

George says the whales were likely confused as they normally stay more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) offshore. The American Cetacean Society says pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings partly due to their social nature.

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