09/30/2014 02:38 EDT | Updated 09/30/2014 02:59 EDT

B.C. Humpback Whale Injured, Tangled In Rope (PHOTOS)

B.C. researchers are looking for a young humpback whale who is injured and may still be tangled in rope.

A team with the Pacific Region Fisheries and Oceans Canada spent 2.5 hours trying to set the whale free off the coast of Tofino, B.C. over the weekend, according to Global News. They managed to loosen the ropes, but not actually remove them before the whale swam away, marine mammals co-ordinator Paul Cottrell said.

“When we arrived the animal was in distress,” Cottrell told CTV News. “You can tell that it’s definitely not doing well."

Cottrell heard about the whale after getting a call from the Pacific Wildlife Foundation's Jim Darling on Sunday, reports the Times Colonist. Darling snapped some photos that show just how deep the rope cuts go, which prompted the federal team's rescue attempt.

“This entanglement is almost certainly going to be lethal if nothing is done," Cottrell told the newspaper.

(Warning: Some readers may find the photos disturbing.)

"That white object alongside the whale is its flipper, clearly cut through enough that it floats up beside the whale rather than extending from the whale and held about parallel to the water surface," Darling told The Huffington Post B.C. in an email.

While it's possible the whale has since freed itself from the ropes, Cottrell told CBC News that the animal likely still needs help. Researchers are hoping to find it again and finish disentangling it.

Anyone who spots the whale is asked to call the Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine mammal hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

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