Nearly 200 whales and several dolphins stranded themselves on a beach on Tasmania's King Island in 2009 [EPA]

A large pod of whales is believed to be in danger of becoming stranded off the western coast of Scotland, marine experts say.

Scotland's animal welfare charity, the Scottish SPCA, said up to 70 pilot whales off the coast of South Uist, near Loch Carnan, appeared to be at risk, with around 20 displaying severe head injuries.

"At this stage we remain hopeful they will not strand themselves but our concern is the injured whales will come onshore and be followed by the rest of the pod," Calum Watt, Scottish SPCA senior inspector, said.

Rescuers have said the animals were very "vocal", which could be a sign of distress, local media reported.

Marine experts, including volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, have been sent to the area to try and prevent the whales from breaching.

A spokesman for the Scottish SPCA said: "One of our senior inspectors is on his way to the scene now. We are assisting the BDMLR with their operation.''

If stranded, it would be Scotland's largest whale beaching to date.

Last October, 35 whales were in danger of stranding themselves in the same place. Despite returning to sea they were later found dead on the Irish coast.

Some studies have suggested military equipment sending out sonar could affect whales, although the phenomenon remains a mystery.

Source: Agencies