A long-fin pilot whale has died a slow death after grounding on an Otago beach, after the Department of Conservation (DOC) was powerless to help it.
After beaching late yesterday at Kaka Point, the whale was trapped on rocks and could not be hauled back to the sea, or put out of its misery.
Invercargill-based DOC planner Brian Murphy told Fairfax Media the whale died this morning.
Balclutha Constable Logan Dickie last night said DOC had made a call that the animal could not be safely euthanised or refloated.
"Unfortunately the whale will not be retrieved from the rocks, so will die an unfortunate death."
It had beached at the north end of the beach, about 100km south of Dunedin.
It was stuck in the "surge" zone - the area where the shore breaks onto the rocks.
It was getting thrown around by the waves, which meant it was difficult to euthanise, Murphy said.
The most humane way to kill it would have been with a high-powered rifle, but it was "too risky".
"They have a very small target zone and if you miss there is the risk you will injure it without killing it," he said.
A local resident found the four-metre long whale just after 6.30pm and called DOC.
It was initially refloated with the assistance of local surf life savers and the local fire fighters at about 8pm but it became beached again at 8.45pm.
DOC biodiversity ranger Roz Cole said it did not make the call to leave the animal beached easily or lightly.
There had been no other sightings of whales at this stage.
"From 6.30pm 'til 9pm we could not see any others, so that is encouraging because it is a concern with pilot whales that more will strand - they usually strand as a pod," Cole said.