Crews rescue two distressed pygmy killer whales from Sand Key beach

Two Pygmy Killer Whales are in critical condition Wednesday night after they were found stranded off Clearwater's Sand Key beach.

The whales are at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, where they are receiving around the clock care.

"When these animals come to us they usually have some significant problems," said Hayley Rutger, spokeswoman for Mote Marine Lab.

The whales were spotted just before 10:30 a.m.

Rescue crews said they found the whales on their sides, a position that makes it difficult for them to clear the blowholes they use to breathe.

It's unclear what caused the whales to strand themselves, but with red tide causing major problems along Sarasota and Manatee counties, biologists are testing whether the toxic algae played a part.

"We're going to take biological samples and have them tested by another lab for Florida red tide toxins," said Rutgers, who also added it can take weeks to get the results back.

For now, biologists said their main focus is to stabilize the whales and eventually return them to sea.