July 31 (UPI) -- A 20-foot orca that was stranded on a rocky southeast Alaskan beach floated back to sea later the same day during high tide, local officials said.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said a ship off Prince of Wales Island called in the marine mammal -- also known as a killer whale -- to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday morning.
They authorized the crew to keep pumping seawater on the animal to keep it wet and keep birds away from it. People gathered on the shore, taking pictures and dumping water on the whale.
A NOAA officer reached the beach early Thursday afternoon, asking people to stay away from the whale.
"This animal is in a situation where it is exceedingly stressed," NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said, according to Anchorage Daily News. "The more humans nearby, the more it will be stressed."
Speegle said the whale was making clicks, whistles and pulsing calls. More killer whales were seen near the area offshore. A high tide came in around 2 p.m. and the whale floated away.
Bay Cetology marine biologists identified the whale as a 13-year-old part of a transient population last seen off the Haida Gwaii archipelago on July 3.
Altogether, five whales have been recorded as stranded on the West Coast in the past two decades, according to The New York Times.