AN entire pod of 55 pilot whales has died following a mass stranding on a Western Isles beach.

Only 15 were alive after they washed onto Traigh Mhòr beach at North Tolsta on the Isle of Lewis around 7am on Sunday morning.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) tried to refloat one of the more active whales but it was then restranded.

Subsequently, the decision was taken to euthanise the remaining whales on welfare grounds.

In a statement releases on Sunday evening, the BDMLR said it believed one of the dead whales had a vaginal prolapse.

This led them to suspect the whole pod stranded due to one female giving birth.

Pilot whales are known for their strong social bonds, meaning that when one whale gets into difficulty and strands, the others often follow.

A statement said: “At about 15:30, the local vet along with the Coastguard, Fire and Rescue, and a forensics vet came to the conclusion that the shallow beach and rough wave conditions made it too unsafe to refloat the remaining animals.

“Considering how long the pilot whales had been out of the water in addition to the poor conditions, it was decided they should be euthanised on welfare grounds.”

READ MORE: Keir Starmer faces fierce criticism following 'painful' BBC interview

Members of the community, Stornoway Coastguard, Stornoway and Shawbost Fire and Rescue, the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, the Scottish SPCA and Civil Air Support were all involved in the rescue effort.

Post mortem examinations of the bodies will now be carried out to conclude the cause of the stranding.