A small minke whale got stuck in less than two feet of water in a Massachusetts cove Wednesday morning, according to NOAA.
The beaching was reported to NOAA officials around 8 a.m. The harbormaster, the animal control officer and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement were also notified.
By the time the stranding coordinator arrived at the scene at 8:30 a.m., a local resident had moved a large boulder that was thought to have been preventing the whale from returning to deeper water.
The stranding coordinator, along with the harbormaster, Massachusetts Gloucester Animal Control officer and NOAA OLE agent, searched for the whale throughout the harbor. Although they were unable to locate it, they believe that it is good news and are hoping the whale made it back to deeper water safely.
Officials are reminding that federal law, specifically the Marine Mammal Protection Act, allows only authorized responders to interact with stranded marine mammals. They say marine mammals often become stranded because they are in distress, and only a trained responder will know best how to evaluate and help the animal.
Officials say pushing an animal back into the water may delay treatment or response and can limit their ability to gather information to help. They say an entangled minke whale was reported near Gloucester, Massachusetts last week and it would have been helpful to examine this most recent whale to see if it may have been the same one.
NOAA also says whales in distress can also be dangerous and powerful, mentioning that people have been seriously injured or killed while trying to help.
If you see a marine mammal in distress, the best thing to do is call the NOAA hotline at (866) 755-6622 or your local stranding response partner and stand by the animal until help arrives.