Beluga whale observed in Montreal: 400km upstream of normal range
The presence of a beluga in the Montreal harbour was finally confirmed by photographic documentation. Several reports of people sighting a beluga whale in the Montreal area had been filed to the Réseau d’observation de mammifères marins (ROMM) since the end of September. The whale, which is probably a juvenile based on its colour, has been in the area for at least two weeks now. Juvenile beluga whales have been occasionally observed out of their range in the past, but this is the first time that the presence of this species has been confirmed west of Quebec City.
Beluga whale distribution is usually restricted to the St. Lawrence Estuary, east of Baie St. Paul, which is approximately 400 km downstream from Montreal. The reason why this individual animal has wandered so far from its usual range is unknown, even though this exploratory behavior is consider somewhat normal in juveniles of this species. Nevertheless, evaluation of pictures taken suggests that this whale might be in sub-optimal body condition and present skin changes probably associated with prolonged exposure to fresh water and it is also possible that this animal is suffering from illness. For now, the whale’s level of activity and diving pattern seem to be within normal limits. Most marine cetaceans will develop life threatening problems if kept in fresh water for long periods. Beluga whales might however be more adapted to prolonged journeys in fresh water since this species is known to utilize rivers on a regular basis and sometime for long stays. For now the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not considering any action other than regular monitoring of the animals condition and activity level. For more information and a regular update on the situation see: www.baleinesendirect.net