The Orca Network is asking whale watchers to keep their eyes peeled for a rare sight — a beluga whale.
Since Sunday, Oct. 3, reports have surfaced of the blubbery white cetacean swimming in Commencement Bay near Tacoma. During this past week, it swam as far north as Elliot Bay near Seattle.
Unlike the other whales that pass through the area, belugas are extremely uncommon. The one spotted recently is the first of its kind to be seen in Puget Sound in 81 years.
Belugas are social animals who travel in pods, so one apart from its group has raised alarm.
Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have provided theories about why the beluga is on its own, but the predominant one seems to be that it may be desperately foraging for food or it may not feel well.
According to a statement from NOAA, the whale is more than 1,000 miles beyond the typical range for its species.
Susan Berta with the Orca Network said the whale spent Thursday back in Commencement Bay, where researchers gathered to assess its health and to take identifying photographs. A member of the organization’s Sighting Network spotted the beluga that morning and reported it.
“This sighting demonstrates how important community science and our whale sighting network are in gathering important data for researchers,” Berta said.
She advised anyone who sees the beluga — or any whale, for that matter — to report it to the Orca Network by calling 1-866-672-2638 or 360-331-3543. Reports can also be emailed to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sighting reports can also be made to NOAA Fisheries by calling 1-866-767-6114.
If observed in the wild, a minimum 100-yard distance should be maintained between the observer and the beluga whale.