If you walk near the Montreal Biosphere, you may spot a minke whale swimming in the St. Lawrence River.
Good for you but not good for the whale – and experts hope the animal will find its way back to safer waters.
According to Robert Michaud, coordinator of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network, the whale was spotted for the first time last night in the Le Moyne channel, a water passage between Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre -Lady near Parc Jean-Drapeau.
This is around the same location that a humpback whale was spotted in 2020.
“The whales seem to like this specific place,” Michaud said with a smile. “But it’s not a pleasant environment.”
The whale would be safer in salt water than in the fresh water it currently swims in. There is also the risk of it being hit by a boat.
“The best explanation we have is that animals make mistakes,” Michaud said, trying to explain how the whale could end up in the Montreal area. “Was it just to chase the fish and got excited and finally got lost? Was it disoriented because he’s sick?”
The goal now is to keep an eye on the whale.
This means observing the mammal and flying a drone over it to get a sense of its resistance. The last I heard, according to Michaud, the whale was swimming against the current.
“A long stay in fresh water can come at a significant cost to the animal’s health,” Michaud said. “That’s why we hope the animal will return to salt water as soon as possible.”
‘I was lucky’
Alain Belso, an avid bird photographer, said since this young humpback whale was found swimming in and around Montreal two years ago, he’s been hoping to see one.
On Sunday, while walking with his girlfriend, he had his chance and was able to take some pictures, but it wasn’t easy.
“At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at because I had never seen a whale so close, so I thought maybe it was a dolphin, but I thought to myself. ‘it’s way too big to be a dolphin.'” Belso said.
“I often take pictures of birds that don’t stay on the branches for too long. So I would look around and as soon as I saw something moving, I would point the camera and take pictures. I had luck.”
Belso alerted Michaud and his team and hopes the whale will find its way back to safety.
“There was actually a boat going right overhead,” Belso said. “He came back and everything seemed OK, but yeah, I’m a little worried that something could happen to this whale.”
Michaud, who is also the scientific director of the Quebec Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, said there were no plans to intervene directly at this stage.