Humpback whale found dead in the St. Lawrence near Montreal

Humpback whale found dead in the St. Lawrence near Montreal
The carcass of a young humpback whale, found dead in the St. Lawrence east of Montreal, was removed from the river using a crane Tuesday, June 9. She was left on the shore at Ste-Anne-de-Sorel (90 km east of Montreal) where she must undergo a necropsy AFP - ERIC THOMAS

A humpback whale, whose jumps had attracted hundreds of onlookers to Montreal in recent days, was found dead and recovered in the St. Lawrence River on Tuesday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The body of the cetacean was seen on Tuesday morning by the pilot of a boat, a few dozen kilometers east of the Quebec metropolis, near the commune of Varennes.

“Early this morning, a commercial ship pilot reported a whale carcass,” confirmed Marie-Eve Muller, spokesperson for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network (RQUMM). “It’s very likely that it’s the same whale seen in Montreal a few days ago,” she added.

Drifting into the river, the whale was eventually towed by a Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans boat to Sainte-Anne-de-Sorel, about 80 km east of Montreal, from where it was slid across the river with a crane in front of several hundred onlookers.

It was originally to be hoisted by the tail on the trailer of a lorry to be transported to the Quebec metropolis, but the manoeuvre ultimately failed. The young whale was left on the shore and police erected a security cordon around her for the night.

A necropsy is to be performed on site Wednesday morning by a team of veterinarians at the University of Montreal to determine the causes of his death, RQUMM said.

The whale, about 10 metres long and estimated to be between two and three years old, was sighted in late May in the St. Lawrence in front of the city of Montreal. Several hundred curious people came to observe its evolutions for several days in front of the Old Port, near the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

The Quebec metropolis, in fresh water, is more than 400 kilometres from the cetacean’s natural habitat and this is the first time in more than a hundred years that a whale of this size has been observed so high in the river, according to experts.

The pilot of the boat that discovered the carcass on Tuesday morning, Simon Lebrun, told Radio-Canada that he had no “blood or deformation glimpses,” which would rule out the possibility of a collision with a ship.

Experts had hoped that the young whale, which had not been seen since Sunday, would find only “the way back to her own,” Muller said.

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