People asked to steer clear of wayward beluga whale spotted in N.B.

A beluga whale is rescued after getting stuck in the Nepisiguit River in Bathurst, N.B., on Thursday, June 15, 2017, in this handout photo. An endangered beluga whale has landed in Riviere-du-Loup, Que., and is now being transported to a nearby port on the St. Lawrence River to join a pod in its natural habitat. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Fisheries and Oceans Canada, GREMM ou Whale Stewardship Project *MANDATORY CREDIT*

POINTE-DU-CHENE, N.B. - A conservation group is urging people not to interact with belugas after a wayward whale was spotted in southeastern New Brunswick.

A photo of a beluga was taken this month near Pointe-du-Chene, a small community on Shediac Bay, an inlet of the Northumberland Strait, and shared with the Marine Animal Response Society.

The group's co-ordinator, Andrew Reid, said beluga whales usually reside in the St. Lawrence Estuary or further north in the Arctic.

He said the region doesn't have a resident population, but single or multiple animals travelling together have been spotted over the last few years.

Reid said the animal isn't necessarily in distress, but warned onlookers to keep their distance.

"They’re an extremely curious animal, so they like interacting with other animals and people," he said. "That leads them to be less fearful of people and boats and that often leads them to being hit."

He said there are a handful of sightings in the area each year, and the society doesn't typically interfere. But in some cases, rescuers do have to step in.

Last June, a beluga lost its way in a northern New Brunswick river and had to be rescued by land, air and sea before being reunited with its pod.

The two-metre long beluga was captured in the Nepisiquit River on June 15, where it was alone. It's unknown why the whale went off on its own and decided to stay in the fresh water river.

It was transported to Quebec, where it was released near Cacouna after being outfitted with a satellite tracking device so officials could monitor its movements.

The population of the St. Lawrence belugas has been declining since the early 2000s and it's believed there are fewer than 900 of them still in existence.

They were placed on the endangered species list last fall.

(Global News)


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