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FIRST ON 3 UPDATE: Beached whale on Bald Head Island returned to ocean by residents; biologists say whale died

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BALD HEAD ISLAND, NC (WWAY) -- Residents say a whale beached itself on the Eastern side of the island. Crowds gathered around the stranded whale and realized the animal was still breathing.

After rallying together, residents were able to return the whale back to the ocean. One man who helped the whale back into the water says he released the whale after it started resisting his help and pushing off.

Ann Pabst with UNCW's Marine Mammal Stranding Program says the whale, which she believes was a pygmy sperm whale, was spotted floating off the coast which leads researchers to believe that the animal has died. Pabst says when whales like this become stranded, it is often because they are very sick and confused.

She says this specific type of whale is a deep diving feeder and the stranding is very rare because the animals usually is very far off the coast.

WWAY has a crew headed to the scene and will have more details as they become available.

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