Boaters asked to keep watch for injured whale calf off Georgia coast

Georgia wildlife officials are asking boaters off the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, and northeast Florida to report sightings of an injured North Atlantic right whale calf.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the calf, one of only nine documented in the Southeast so far this winter, is wounded on its head.

It appears the injuries may have come from a boat propeller.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

DNR says anglers fishing off South Carolina saw the calf with its mother on Jan 3 and were able to get a close look as the calf approached their boat.

Biologists with the department say the calf’s injuries appear severe but they are not fresh.

They say the presence of small crustaceans called cyamids indicates the wound is at least a few days old.

The injuries may affect the calf’s ability to nurse.

According to DNR, right whales can be difficult for boaters to see because of their dark color and lack of a dorsal fin.


Mothers and calves spend most of their time near the surface, which puts them at a higher risk of being hit.

Boaters are encouraged to report sightings by calling 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343) or by hailing the U.S. Coast Guard on marine VHF channel 16.

If you spot a whale, you should operate at a slow speed or put your engine in neutral, and slowly leave the area while keeping watch as it is likely that other whales could be nearby.

It is Georgia law to stay at least 500 yards away from any right whale you see and never pursue one.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]