If you’re out and about near the Montreal Biosphere, you could catch a glimpse of a minke whale swimming in the Saint-Lawrence River.
Good for you but not good for the whale — and experts hope the animal finds its way back to safer waters.
According to Robert Michaud, the co-ordinator for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network, the whale was first spotted last night in Chenal Le Moyne — a water passage between Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame near Parc Jean-Drapeau.
That’s about the same location a humpback whale was spotted in back in 2020.
“Whales seem to like this specific spot,” Michaud said with a grin. “But it’s not a nice environment.”
The whale would be safer in salt water as opposed to the fresh water it is currently swimming in. There is also the risk that it gets hit by a boat.
“The best explanation we have is that animals make mistakes,” said Michaud, trying to account for how the whale could end up in the Montreal area. “Was it just chasing fish and got excited and got lost eventually? Was it disoriented because it’s sick?”
The goal now is to keep an eye on the whale.
That means observing the mammal and flying a drone above it to get a sense of how it is holding up. At last update, according to Michaud, the whale was swimming against the current.
“A long stay in fresh water can incur a big cost to the health of the animal,” Michaud said. “This is why we are hoping for the animal to head back as soon as possible to the salt water.”
‘I was lucky’
Alain Belso, an amateur bird photographer, said ever since that 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 got his chance and was able to snap a few photos, but it wasn’t easy.
“At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at because I had never seen a whale from up close like that so I thought it might’ve been a dolphin, but I thought, ‘that’s way too big to be a dolphin,'” Belso said.
“I often take pictures of birds that don’t stay on branches for too long. So I would look around and as soon as I saw something move I aimed the camera and took some pictures. I got lucky.”
Belso alerted Michaud and his team and hopes the whale finds its way back to safety.
“There was actually a boat that passed right above it,” Belso said. “It came back up and everything seemed OK, but yeah, I have some fear that something might happen to that whale.”
Michaud, who is also the scientific director of the Quebec-based Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, said there is no plan to intervene directly at this point.