Minke whale spends time in Har­bour Grace

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS [email protected]­n­com­pass.ca

A Minke whale beached it­self along the shores of Har­bour Grace this past week, with of­fi­cials from DFO and other whale res­cue groups not­ing that the crea­ture’s health was rapidly de­clin­ing.

A minke whale at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion in Har­bour Grace last week as it swam close to the shore­line.

Af­ter the whale found it­self stuck in shal­low waters a few times, the marine mam­mal found its way back to the ocean Tues­day af­ter­noon, June 19. Res­i­dents started tak­ing no­tice of the crea­ture the day be­fore. As of The Com­pass’ print dead­line, it had not been spot­ted again.

Wayne Led­well of Whale Re­lease and Strand­ings, a non­profit group that re­sponds to sit­u­a­tions re­gard­ing marine an­i­mals caught in ice or stranded on shore­lines, spoke with The Com­pass last Tues­day about the whale, which was widely be­lieved to be dead. Led­well, how­ever, ex­plained that the whale was in fact alive and had swam around the har­bour for a cou­ple hours be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing again, pre­sum­ably fur­ther out into the depths of the ocean and out of Led­well’s sight.

“We went down there and the whale had ac­tu­ally moved out of that area where it breached, so I thought it could ei­ther be dead, or had moved on,” he ex­plained. “We fol­lowed it all the way down to the govern­ment wharf, and that was it. The whale was alive when we left. Right now, as far as I know, it’s gone out as far as the har­bour. We went out a bit fur­ther, think­ing it would come back to ma­rina, but never saw it af­ter that.”

He added that the crew spent fur­ther time look­ing for it af­ter los­ing sight of the whale but had no luck, as­sum­ing that the an­i­mal had gained back some en­ergy af­ter the tide rolled in, and gave it­self a sec­ond chance at life.

Had the whale been found dead, Led­well said the plan would have been to work with the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans to per­form an au­topsy and look at the crea­ture’s in­sides and in­ter­nal or­gans. He said they would be look­ing for an ob­vi­ous cause be­hind the whale’s state, which he noted was not good.

“When (the whale) was go­ing along, it was com­ing up out of the wa­ter and there was a lot of kelp around the spout and dor­sal fin,” he said of the crea­ture’s be­hav­iour. “You can tell when a whale is sick. They’re sup­posed to be a bit round and al­most fat, but this one was far from that. You could see the tips of its ver­te­brae stick­ing out of its back, and it was very con­cave. You could also see its shoul­der blades, which you ob­vi­ously shouldn’t be able to do. To me, it looked like a whale that was go­ing to die.”

Ac­cord­ing to Led­well, it is com­mon for whales of this species to beach them­selves when they feel as though their time has come. Judg­ing by the clear health prob­lems this par­tic­u­lar whale was fac­ing, Led­well was not sur­prised to know that it had sit­u­ated it­self into the shores of Har­bour Grace.

If it does show up in Har­bour Grace or a neigh­bour­ing town again, Led­well said it would be up to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to prop­erly dis­pose of the car­cass, as is the case with any in­cor­po­rated town or com­mu­nity in the prov­ince. From there, the body would likely be towed away to an­other beach or buried.

CHRIS LEWIS/THE COM­PASS

A minke whale was spot­ted swim­ming near the wreck of the S.S. Kyle last week in Har­bour Grace.

CHRIS LEWIS/THE COM­PASS

Ob­servers were keep­ing a close eye on this minke whale on Mon­day, June 18.

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