For the second time in two years, a stray whale has swam all the way to Montreal, only to end up in the exact same area of the St. Lawrence River. This time it is a minke whale, a species often seen in the estuary. The animal, which is more than 450 kilometers from its natural habitat, may well be doomed.
This slender, dark-backed cetacean is a type of baleen whale that can measure about nine to ten meters in adulthood. However, the one that was first sighted on Sunday, before being seen multiple times during the day on Monday, would most likely be a juvenile.
So it could be an animal barely a few months old, with a length of about three meters. The minke whale still measures more than 2.50 meters at birth, for a weight of about 450 kg. In adulthood, the weight can reach 10 tons.
Arriving in Montreal barely two years after a young female humpback whale, this young minke whale spent Monday swimming between Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame, near the pedestrian bridge of the Cosmos, not far from the biosphere. This is exactly where the humpback whale, which was sighted two years ago, was last seen before being found dead in the seaway downstream.
Since the news of his presence was quickly spread on social networks, several curious people, as well as representatives of various media, went there. The security of Parc Jean-Drapeau also had to block access to the bridge at the end of the day due to the presence of spectators.
The comments collected on the spot essentially boiled down to questions: “What is this minke whale doing there? What can we do to save it? Can it go home alone? So many questions that remain unanswered, such as in the case of the humpback whale that died in 2020.” was observed.
far from home
Because the animal had been swimming against a strong current for more than 24 hours, this situation could eventually wear it out, said the scientific director of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, Robert Michaud. “These are less powerful animals and have fewer reserves than humpback whales, such as the one that visited Montreal in 2020.”
However, the animal, which surfaced every three to five minutes, is said to be in good physical condition, according to the first images analyzed by the scientists. They cannot indicate whether these cetaceans could be feeding in the area. Normally in salt water, this whale feeds mainly on capelin and herring, species not found in the river’s waters in the Montreal area.
For now, no intervention is planned to try to capture or scare this animal. Such an operation has never been attempted in Quebec for an animal of this size free-swimming.
To hope to return to its natural habitat, the St. Lawrence Estuary, this minke whale would have to turn around and descend the seaway for more than 450 kilometers. The species is very often seen there in summer, especially in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. The minke whale is not an endangered species as it is said to have several hundred thousand individuals worldwide.
This is the second time in less than two years that a large cetacean has been found in the Montreal region. By May 2020, a young female 10-meter humpback whale had spent more than a week in the area. It had attracted hundreds of curious people every day, who came to see it near the Quai de l’Horloge. In particular, they could have seen her make dozens of spectacular jumps out of the water.
This humpback whale, which had caused quite the stir in Montreal, eventually died after a “sudden event,” according to the cetacean autopsy report. Even if the trace of a collision with a ship in the St. Lawrence Seaway remains highly plausible, the scientists who analyzed the case were unable to confirm this hypothesis.