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Beluga whale rescued from New Brunswick river swims towards possible reunion with pod

Click to play video: 'Beluga whale stranded in New Brunswick heading for home' Beluga whale stranded in New Brunswick heading for home
WATCH: A beluga whale that spent weeks in a New Brunswick river after getting separated from its pod has been removed and transported into the St. Lawrence where it is hoped it will find its pod in the ocean – Jun 16, 2017

A young beluga whale that was rescued from a New Brunswick river on Thursday may soon be reunited with a pod, a marine biologist said.

According to the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, the whale was tracked swimming in waters often frequented by belugas on Friday night. It still remains unclear whether the young male has joined its pod.

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Rescuers remove beluga whale from New Brunswick river – Jun 15, 2017
“The team is very encouraged by [this] early news. However, we remain cautious about the long-term prognosis,” scientific director Robert Michaud said in a statement on Saturday.
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The whale was rescued in a complex operation that saw the endangered marine mammal travel by land, air and sea before being returned to its natural habitat.

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. The whale was then transported to an airport in Bathurst, N.B.

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A veterinarian determined that the mammal was a bit thin, with skin in poor shape, and gave the whale an injection to help with the transport.

After being flown to Quebec in a small airplane and taking another short car trip, the whale was transferred to a boat to be set free in the St. Lawrence Estuary close to a group of whales near Cacouna Que. The veterinarian reportedly stayed with the beluga during the flight to give him intravenous fluids.

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READ MORE: Rescuers remove beluga whale from New Brunswick river

Scientists are currently using a tracking device to observe the whale’s movements as it continues swimming upstream, Michaud said.

However, determining the whale’s exact location has proved be a difficult task.

Michaud said the whale’s tag is programmed to send a signal up to 250 times a day when the whale breaches the surface, but in the first day of tracking, most transmissions were received in the first few hours.

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“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.”

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If the cycle continues, Michaud said scientists should receive more information about the whale late Saturday evening.

Michaud also said members of the group are conducting sea patrols over the next few days in an effort to spot the whale.

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–With a file from the Canadian Press. 

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