A marine team in Quebec was called in to help a baby beluga whale found stranded on a beach on the St. Lawrence River.
Officials at the Group for Research and Education on Marine Animals (GREMM) received a call from vacationers who found the female calf in Riviere-du-Loup around 1 p.m. ET Thursday.
GREMM president Robert Michaud said the calf was only hours old, which means the mother likely died while giving birth, he told Montreal newspaper Le Devoir.
“It would not be surprising to find another dead female in the coming days,” he said.
The whale was transported back into the water near a group of female whales in the hopes they would adopt it.
While the calf integrated into the pod, no female showed signs of adopting it.
“For now, we do not yet know the outcome of the story,” Michaud told Le Devoir.
“It is estimated that the probability of a rescue like this works are very low.”
St. Lawrence belugas in need of help
Michaud called the St. Lawrence beluga situation “increasingly precarious.”
He said there were already two female whale carcasses found this year, and there is an unusually high mortality rate among the whales.
The population, which was over 100,000 a century ago, is just under 900 today – less than one per cent of what it once was.
World Wildlife Fund Canada says the belugas are endangered and said they are affected by pollution in the water.
“In fact, toxins in belugas reach such high levels that some beluga carcasses have had to be classified as ‘toxic waste,’” WWF-Canada representative Emily Giles wrote in a blog post.