‘Entangled’ Whale Saved From Great White Shark Off Massachusetts

A group of researchers stumbled upon a whale off the Massachusetts coast yesterday that had become “effectively hogtied,” leaving it easy prey for a great white shark that was circling the cetacean when it was discovered.

A team from the Center for Coastal Studies had set out to observe local humpback whales on Saturday when they discovered the unfortunate cetacean near Stellwagen Bank, roughly five miles north of Provincetown, according to NECN. The whale had become entangled in a long rope, which was wrapped around its tail fluke and also lodged in its mouth. Drifting near the surface, the whale was so badly disabled that it was unable to swim or use its tail for defense.

The unfortunate animal was also hardly alone in the water, as a 15-foot-long great white shark was observed circling the disabled whale. By the time that the research team stumbled upon the scene, the shark had already taken advantage of the whale’s distress, biting into it several times.

A Marine Animal Entanglement Response team was dispatched from CCS in an attempt to free the whale, but by the time they arrived, it had suffered a substantial wound to its left flank thanks to the shark. Since the great white remained in the area when the team arrived, they worked from the deck of the 35-foot-long response boat Ibis to free the whale from the rope, cutting away the section that had become lodged in its mouth. Once they were able to sever that, the humpback could freely swim, leaving the shark to flee from the area, its easy prey lost.

The whale, however, was still wrapped in the remnants of the line, and the team attached a working rope to the section around its tail. As the humpback dragged a dinghy containing rescuers behind it, they used a specialized knife to cut away the last of the rope. Once the animal was fully freed, they watched as it moved out to sea, as CBS Boston reports.

Though the whale was extremely lucky to be happened upon by the researchers and saved from the shark, the predators are hardly an unusual presence off the coastline at this time of the year. As the Inquisitr has recently reported, great whites have been congregating off Massachusetts for years, drawn by a large population of seals in the region. The white sharks are not above preying upon an injured or incapacitated whale, however, as the researchers’ recent encounter proves.

[Image: CCS Taken Under NOAA Permit #18786 via CBS Boston]