A young beluga whale that was rescued from a New Brunswick river looks closer to being reunited with a pod, a marine mammal group says.
The Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals says the wayward whale was tracked swimming in waters often frequented by belugas on Friday night, but it remains unclear whether the young male has joined the pod.
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"The team is very encouraged by these early news," scientific director Robert Michaud said in a statement Saturday. "However, we remain cautious about the long-term prognosis. "
The whale was rescued in a complex operation Thursday that saw the endangered marine mammal travel by land, sea and air before being returned to the sea.
The beluga, which waded into New Brunswick's Nepisiguit River weeks ago, was coaxed into a net using an acoustic deterrent device and loaded into the back of a truck, where he was then transported to a Bathurst, N.B., airport.
The animal was flown to Quebec in a small airplane, and after another car trip, was transferred to a boat to be set free close to a group of whales in the St. Lawrence Estuary near Cacouna, Que.
Whale's movement tracked
Scientists are observing the whale's movements with a tracking device as it continues to swim upstream, said Michaud, but pinning down its exact location has proved to be a difficult task.
He said the whale's tag is programmed to send a signal when the whale breaches the surface up to 250 times a day, but in the first day of tracking, most transmissions were sent within a few hours.
"It is possible that the beluga, recovering from its adventure, spends a lot of time at rest, near the surface," said Michaud.
"The tag then could transmit all its signals within a few hours."
If the cycle continues, Michaud said scientists should receive more information about the whale late Saturday evening. Michaud said members of the group are conducting sea patrols over the next few days in an effort to spot the whale.