For pilot whales that beach themselves, or otherwise wind up out of water, their own massive body weight -- up to around 6,600 pounds for adults -- could put pressure on their organs when unsupported by sufficient water. Janelle Schuh, stranding coordinator for Mystic Aquarium said that rescuers might therefore attempt to dig pressure-relieving trenches close to the whale's body, if it's on sand.
"It is also important to protect their skin from drying out, so we put wet cloths on their backs," she said.
As a last resort, teams will attempt to carry stranded marine mammals back to the water by placing them on stretchers. This is potentially very dangerous, though, both to the animal victims and to the rescuers. Schuh explained that the animals could die on the spot due to profound stress, or could hurt the people.
Human presence just in and of itself, especially when marine mammals are already out of their comfort zones, can skyrocket their stress levels.
"If you encounter a stranded marine mammal, please contact your local authorities immediately and only observe the animal or animals from a lengthy distance," Schuh advised.
NOAA Fisheries has organized the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. It lists the contact information for multiple different rescue organizations around the nation, with a few international organizations included as well. Most operate hotlines for reporting strandings.
It's likely that early reporting and a fast response from Mase and her team helped to save the 35 pilot whales now heading away from the Florida Everglades.