Prior to the two incidents reported last July 25, six belugas had been found dead since the beginning of the year, including one female that succumbed to dystocia (calving difficulties).

On Saturday, July 25, in a span of less than two hours, two beluga carcasses are reported adrift. In the morning, a fishing trawler reports a beluga carcass within five nautical miles of the coast of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. The carcass is fresh, but resources for towing it ashore are limited. An advisory is issued by the Canadian Coast Guard, but no other boat has crossed its path.

A little after noon, a Network collaborator, the Mériscope team, contacts 1-877-7baleine to report a very fresh female beluga carcass, in the heart of the shipping lane through the Estuary, 15 nautical miles from Longue-Rive on the North Shore.

According to the description given by researcher Dany Zbinden, birds had left the carcass practically untouched. The genital slit seems particularly dilated according to the researcher, an aspect that will warrant further study during the necropsy. After nearly four hours of low-speed towing, the carcass was brought back to the cruise and pilot boat port in Les Escoumins. The following morning, the carcass is transported to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Saint-Hyacinthe.

“A Lonely Calf”

“It is a somewhat sad story for this female beluga, as is the case for most belugas who wind up here in fact” explains André Dallaire of the Université de Montréal’s faculty of veterinary medicine. The necropsy results for this 8th beluga carcass confirm that this female also died of dystocia. “There were several litres of blood in the abdominal cavity and a laceration at least 10 cm long in the wall of the uterus. The baby was thus expelled, but observations in the uterine body nevertheless suggest a difficult birth in this case. She had begun to produce milk from her two mammary glands. So there’s a newborn out there who’s been very lonely these past few days,” explains Mr. Dallaire.

Newborn Beluga Beached

Wednesday, July 29, 4 pm, Sainte-Flavie: the Marine Mammal Emergencies Call Centre is contacted by a resident who reports that people are pushing a young dolphin back into the water that was stranded live on the beach. Photos confirm however that it is not a dolphin, but rather a newborn beluga writhing on the beach, visibly distressed. A few minutes later, the animal is no longer breathing. Despite the directives issued not to intervene in such situations, the carcass of the young beluga was pushed back into the St. Lawrence. Every stranding and every carcass represent valuable scientific data; it was therefore hoped that it would wash up on shore once again to be able to recover it and conduct a comprehensive necropsy and thereby attempt to explain why this beluga got beached.

This is precisely what happened. At 7:45 pm local residents reported the carcass near the Sainte-Flavie wharf. A Marine Mammal Emergencies volunteer arrives on site a few minutes later to secure the carcass to prevent it from being carried out by the tide. On Thursday morning, the young beluga is transported to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy.

Marine Mammal Emergencies - 30/7/2015

Josiane Cabana

Josiane Cabana served as Director for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network call centre from 2011 to 2018. When she’s not responding to cases of dead or vulnerable marine mammals, she likes to take the time to educate local residents on the threats faced by these animals. Biologist by training, she has been involved with the GREMM for more than 15 years, and always with the same undying passion!

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