Newborn beluga whale rescued in Quebec
Sunday, July 3, 2016, 3:09 PM - A family on vacation in Rivière-du-Loup, Que., stumbled upon a beached baby beluga, which may have been only hours old.
The encounter happened on Thursday, when the family spotted the whale all but completely out of the water as the tide went out. They kept it moist until help could arrive.
"We dug a hole so that water would accumulate and its skin would hydrate," 15-year-old Nicholas Milliard told CBC. "Every five minutes we got it a bucket of water. The water level was dropping, and it was becoming more and more difficult to get water."
A team from the Tadoussac-based Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) arrived later in the afternoon to take the whale to safety, and a vet -- patched in via Facetime from Vancouver -- said the whale was a newborn female, only 150 cm long.
GREMM says the newborn was determined to be strong enough to be moved into the ocean, and the group tried to reintroduce it into a nearby group of belugas in the hopes that she would find nourishment.
"Belugas have to nurse for two years, so she really has to find a lactating female that will feed her milk for those two years," GREMM spokesperson Josiane Cabana told CBC.
Unfortunately, CBC reports none of the females in that group seemed interested in taking on the orphan, and the newborn was last seen moving on to another group before the sun went down. GREMM tried a similar reintroduction tactic in 2008, but its not clear if it worked.
The whale's fate is unknown, and the researchers took a skin sample from the beluga in case it is ever found again, either living in the wild or washed up on another beach.