Canada: Humpback Whale Goes Astray in Montreal

Canada: Humpback Whale Goes Astray in Montreal
This humpback whale is lost in the fresh waters of Montreal. DAVID HIMBERT / HANS LUCAS / HANS LUCAS VIA AFP

A humpback whale has been observed for several days in Montreal, Canada. The animal is said to have strayed by hunting or making navigational errors.

A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), probably lost, has been staying since May 30, 2020, in Montreal. A rare scene since the Quebec metropolis is located in freshwater and several hundred kilometers from the natural habitat of the marine mammal.

The whale, probably the same as the one seen a few days ago near Quebec City, went up the St. Lawrence River before arriving in Montreal on the morning of May 30, Marie-Eve Muller, spokeswoman for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network (RQUMM), told AFP. The cetacean, estimated to be between two and three years old, was sighted the next day in the late afternoon near the Jacques Cartier Bridge. In the memory of the RQUMM, “this is the first time that a humpback whale has been observed in Montreal,” located more than 400 kilometers west of the marine mammal’s natural habitat in the maritime estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Muller said.

No reorientation of the whale: the operation would be too risky

An RQUMM response team was deployed to document the health of the whale, which was remotely escorted by zodiacs of Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers to avoid stress and prevent a collision with other vessels, she said. It is possible that the whale could stay “several months” near Montreal, she added, adding that due to the presence of locks and rapids, “it should not be able to go further” up the river to the west. However, an intervention to redirect the whale – an operation that can be dangerous to the animal – is not planned at this time since a whale can “stay in freshwater” in the short term, she said. “At the moment, the whale is healthy, it eats freely. The best option is to let nature take its course, and hope that the animal decides alone to take “the way back to its own,” she added.

According to the RQUMM, a humpback whale can measure between 13 and 17 meters and weigh up to 40 tons in adulthood.