Bottlenose whale is a long way from home
Sightings of a northern bottlenose whale in Loch Long have raised concerns over its wellbeing. This animal, whose species usually occurs in more northerly, offshore and deeper waters, was first reported to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) on the 3rd September 2012; however it’s believed that the animal has been there for some time. Reports of this animal eliciting behaviour such as tail slapping have been reported and HWDT are concerned that this behaviour may be associated with distress. Someone has posted a video of the whale breaching, while another has uploaded a video of the animal tail slapping.
Northern bottlenose whales are deep diving species that require large depths to hunt squid, which make up a large part of their diet. They appear to migrate southwards around northwest Scotland in the autumn but can sometimes go off-course and enter more inshore waters. Some animals stay in these coastal waters for a time before continuing their migration, however others are not so successful and get trapped in these shallower waters.
In 2006, a northern bottlenose whale famously entered the River Thames and swam up into central London in the opposite direction of the open sea. Locally, northern bottlenose whales have been sighted in Loch Scridain on the Isle of Mull. In this case an adult and juvenile were seen remarkably close to the shore prompting concerns but seemed to navigate their way out to deeper water. Another individual was recorded for nearly three weeks in Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil in October 2008, sadly this individual did not find its way back out of the loch and perished. Morven Summers, HWDTs Volunteer Coordinator, says, “We receive reports of northern bottlenose whales, mostly in the autumn months. More study needs to be undertaken to determine why some animals take ‘wrong turns’ and find themselves in difficulty.”
The welfare of the whale in Loch Long is the main priority at this time and all that can be done is to mitigate any distress to the animal. The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) has been informed of the situation but HWDT would ask members of the public to remain vigilant and report any strandings immediately. Please report live strandings to BDMLR on 01825 765 564 and strandings of dead animals in Scotland should be reported to the Scottish agricultural college on 01463 243 030. Please do not approach the animal on the shore if it’s still alive, you will only stress the animal out further.
Eryn, HWDT Volunteer