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Whale rescue hotline hacked

45-ton mother and calf 'put down', trolls falsely claim

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Even a pair of stranded whales and the legions of people dedicated to saving them aren't safe from trolls, it seems.

A telephone hotline established to allow individuals to leave comments about the two whales, which were stranded in California's Sacramento River, was breached by unknown trouble makers, who left an outgoing message falsely claiming authorities exterminated the humpback whale and her calf.

Due to lawsuits, a week-long rescue effort that captured international attention had been stopped and the injured whales were "put down to ease their suffering," a male voice told callers who dialed in to the hotline.

The information is entirely incorrect, a US Coast Guard spokesman said in news reports. The 45-ton mother and calf, dubbed Delta and Dawn, are believed to have passed through San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific, where their chances of survival are much higher.

The whales were believed to have been injured after being struck by a boat propeller. They showed signs of distress and lethargy during the seven days they spent meandering the river, and marine biologists worried their exposure to fresh water was preventing their wounds from healing. Rescuers used recordings of whales and water streams from fire boats in an attempt to coax the leviathans back into salt water.

Coast Guard officials say they received more than 2,200 comments from the public through the hotline and an accompanying email address. As of Thursday, the number was not operational. ®

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