Researchers investigating after juvenile Humpback found dead on Island's west coast
COURTENAY -- Whale researchers are hoping the recent discovery of a dead Humpback on Vancouver Island will help further their understanding of entanglements.
The juvenile was discovered on a remote beach near Kyuquot on northwest Vancouver Island by some kayakers. They spoke of their find to water-taxi operator Leo Jack, who then went out to investigate.
"We could see there's about five crab traps right beside it and they're all kind of squashed and the rope goes underneath it and around its tail, I think, so it looks like it was tangled up in the crab traps," Jack said.
After seeing the discovery on Facebook, Humpback whale researcher Jackie Hildering became involved.
"They are such graphic images that they make clear how serious a risk an entanglement is and with the increase of Humpbacks on our coast, we have a responsibility to be aware of the risk of collision and of entanglement," Hildering said.
Hildering is with the Marine Education and Research Society and says the discovery is relatively rare. She says most whales sink after dying of entanglements, and she’s hoping this carcass will assist in their research efforts.
Unfortunately, she says, the remains are too badly decayed to be able to identify the Humpback, but she can confirm it is a juvenile.
Hildering says Humpbacks lack bio-sonar, so they don't get acoustic images of what's around them and therefore are prone to running into difficulties. She says nearly 50 per cent of Humpbacks seen in the wild show evidence of previous entanglements through their scarring.
She says it's important for members of the public to call in any mammals they see suffering from entanglements, even if they're dead, through a hotline: 1-800-465-4336.
Hildering also cautions against anyone trying to attempt disentanglements themselves.
"There's a lot of romantic notion about how you can disentangle a whale, but not only would you be putting yourself at extraordinary risk, you would very likely be making things worse for the whale,” she said.