North Atlantic Right Whales usually give birth in the warm waters of Florida and Georgia, but one mother who missed migration gave birth off the coast Massachusetts. While scientists worried that the baby whale would die in the cold water, against all odds the calf survived and both mother and baby have now been reunited with their pod.
This January a whale named Wart gave birth in the cold waters of Cape Cod Bay when it missed migration to the warm waters of Florida and Georgia with other members of its pod. Scientists at the New England Aquarium and Whale and Dolphin Conservation observed such a birth first time in 27 years and thought the baby would not survive.
But despite the freezing cold water the baby has survived and it was last sighted on April 18th.
Regina Asmutis-Silvia, senior biologist at the organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation in Plymouth, Mass. said,
“The aquarium reported a sighting of them on April 18. So the calf was about three months old and it looked really healthy, it looked fat. Mom was feeding — so it’s a really good sign.”
The worry for the pair is not over though. All Right whales need to come to the water surface from time to time and which makes them vulnerable to ship hits as well as other human activities.
The observers are still worried that the calf and mother might be at risk from such hazards.
At present though, the good news is that the calf is drinking its mother’s milk.
“It’s kind of … thinking like a mixture of sour cream and cottage cheese and yogurt together. And it’s very rich and fatty like that,” Asmutis-Silvia said.
The rest of the pod have since migrated back up to Massachusetts and met up with the new mom.
Scientists are now trying to figure where they move next. They were last seen on the West side of the Cape Cod Bay which does not have as much environment protection as the East side or the middle of the bay.
“In part, that’s because historic sitings have shown that they prefer to feed in the late winter, early spring. But we had not only Wart and her calf on the west side, we had probably one-third of the Right whale population that was on the west side of the bay at the end of April and beginning of May, and the food was very thick,” Asmutis-Silvia said.
This time though there was plenty of food and as per the researcher she was able to sight a right whale just 100 yards off the beach, skim-feeding along the surface near Duxburry.
“That’s just really important for the government agencies to recognize that these animals do use the west side of the bay, and that area does need to be protected,” she said.