MONTREAL — A wayward humpback whale has strayed from her usual habitat and ended up in the Montreal area on Saturday — a first according to marine mammal experts.
The whale was spotted underneath the Jacques Cartier Bridge, near the city’s La Ronde amusement park, early in the afternoon.
Marie-Eve Muller, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network, said it’s unclear what led the whale to wander so far astray or how long it might stick around Montreal before turning around.
But Muller said the whale might have reached the end of its journey along the St. Lawrence River in the Montreal area.
“The current is quite strong, it’s trying to go up but it’s having a hard time fighting the current,” Muller said, adding the whale wasn’t showing any signs of distress.
“It’s swimming freely so that’s good, it means it can move around as it needs,” she added. “It’s hard to predict if it has hit the end of the road and will turn around and hopefully go back to her other humpback whale friends in Tadoussac or Gaspe,” she said.
Muller said it’s the first time her organization has heard of a whale the size of a humpback in these parts — previously minke whales or belugas have been spotted.
A boat from Muller’s group was attempting the determine the age and sex of the humpback — an adult is between 13 and 17 metres long and can weigh up to 40 tonnes.
On Tuesday, the whale created a stir when it was spotted by a fisherman near a bridge in Quebec City.
“He didn’t know it was a humpback whale so he was very confused and excited,” Muller said.
It was spotted subsequently in Sorel, Que., on Thursday and Lanoraie, Que., on Friday, both east of Montreal, before showing up in the city on the weekend.
As for why the humpback whale ended up here, Muller said it’s unclear. It could be that it was following prey, possibly disoriented or perhaps it’s just a young whale exploring a new territory.
Muller said because of the locks and the rapids, the whale has probably reached the end of its trip. Normally living in salt water, the whale could stay around Montreal for a while.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada agents have been keeping tabs and making sure boats stay at least 100 metres away to keep the humpback safe.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020.