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Hope fading for whale beached in Newfoundland: 'The animal may die here'

Last Updated Jun 19, 2018 at 4:00 pm EDT

Mike Morrissey of Whale Release and Strandings paddles cautiously towards an adult minke whale in Harbour Grace, N.L., in this recent handout photo. A whale rescue group says an adult minke whale that that became beached in a Newfoundland harbour is not in good health. Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings says his group arrived on scene in the mouth of Harbour Grace early Monday morning after reports of a stranded whale, and found that the minke was "very thin." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Whale Release and Strandings

HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. – Hope was fading for a beached whale as night fell Monday on a small coastal community in eastern Newfoundland.

Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings said the adult minke whale had been freed Monday morning, but instead of heading for the open waters of Conception Bay, it turned around and was stranded again in shallow waters near the town of Harbour Grace.

“I just think it’s a sick animal, for whatever reason,” Ledwell said in an interview late Monday. “The body is totally emaciated … This whale has some skin sloughing off of it. You can see some of its ribs.”

He said its behaviour was typical of a whale that seemed determined to beach itself.

“What I would rather do with an animal like this is to let nature take its course,” he said after returning to shore. “The animal is there for a reason … I think the animal may die here.”

Ledwell said he was consulting with federal Fisheries officials in Harbour Grace. A final decision on a course of action will likely come Tuesday morning, he said.

The whale, which was stuck about 20 metres from shore, is about seven metres long and probably weighs between two and three tonnes.

Earlier in the day, Ledwell and a colleague managed to free the whale using the oars on their small boat.

“They tried several times to get it out,” said a local resident who works at a convenience store close to where the whale was stranded. “It went farther out in the water and it just turned around and came back in again.”

The witness, who identified herself as Mary, said she could see the whale spouting from its blowhole earlier in the day.

About a couple dozen people had gathered by the shore to watch the whale, she said.