Beluga whale making friends

Raissa Tetanish
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Beluga whale making friends

ADVOCATE Doris Collins was excited to see an unusual visitor in the Bay of Fundy come up alongside the boat she and her husband were in.

The visitor, a young beluga whale about two-years-old, was first spotted in the Advocate Harbour two months ago.

I was curious about the whale. Everyone was talking about it and how it would come right up to the boat, Collins said from her home. Of course I was a little worried at first that he might rock the boat when he touched it or something, but he never did anything like that.

Collins and her husband first headed to the waters in their boat on Aug. 4 to take a look at the whale, a species normally found the in the Arctic Ocean and its adjoining seas. They went out again a week later for a second visit, joined by their youngest son, 11-year-old Ryan. Collins says the couple put their hands in the water and splashed when the beluga wasnt near, to see if it would approach the boat.

The first time we went out, we saw him around the bell buoy and it was within minutes that he was over by our boat, she said. The next time we went out, we sat for about 15 minutes before he finally surfaced and came near.

Cathy Kinsman, founder and director of the Whale Stewardship Project based out of Musquodoboit Harbour, says the belugas interaction goes beyond curiosity, that there are two primary reasons why the whale has been friendly.

Belugas are social in nature and theyre acoustic in communicative, she said, adding she calls this beluga Q. Theres nobody there of his own species to socialize with or to talk to, or will talk back to him.

Kinsman says Q can hear whenever an opportunity, such as a boat motor, is presented in his habitat.

It goes beyond curiosity. Its an innate need for this beluga to find social interaction and investigate anything that is acoustic in nature in his habitat. Hes trying to fill a void.

Having had a chance to visit Advocate and Q, Kinsman has been able to get a look at the whale and his behavior.

Given that belugas are very opportunistic feeders and have a wide variety of food that theyll look for, its likely theres enough food around for him, she said.

Kinsman feels, however, that because of the current, Q needs to be monitored closely.

Because hes chosen to live in one area of water thats constantly moving because of the tidal current, it means that in order for him to stay in that, hes constantly working. Hes expending a lot of energy.

Theres that question that hes getting enough calories to offset the amount of energy hes expending to stay in the area. If yes, then he will be fine. If no, then over time, he could definitely weaken.

Although it may have been unusual to hear of orphaned whales a decade ago, Kinsman says its certainly not an anomaly now. Q is the third beluga to be spotted in Atlantic Canada this year. One is currently traveling the coastline of Newfoundland, and another was spotted in the Northwest Arm in Halifax.

It is something that we can pretty much predict is going to happen, at least somewhere, in Atlantic Canada every year, Kinsman added.

Because of the support of the community and residents in Advocate, Kinsman and the Whale Stewardship Project believes Q is the perfect opportunity to institute a research project to look at ways that may be incredibly helpful to Q and future orphaned whales.

Geographic location: Bay of Fundy, Advocate Harbour, Arctic Ocean Musquodoboit Harbour Atlantic Canada Newfoundland Northwest Arm Halifax

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