Entangled Whale Mom and Her Calf Filmed Off the Coast of Georgia

A whale that has been entangled in fishing gear for almost a year has been spotted off the coast of Georgia's Cumberland Island with a new calf, 18 months after she lost her firstborn as a result of a collision with two vessels.

The critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, known as Snow Cone, was filmed by the MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife aerial survey team about 10 miles north of Cumberland Island on December 2.

The footage was released by the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division.

Snow Cone was first spotted in March 2021 off the coast of Cape Cod. She had become entangled by fishing gear and, after several attempts to set her free, were unable to completely remove the rope.

The 16-year-old breeding female was partially disentangled by the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response. They managed to remove over 300 feet of fishing line, with some believed to have remained in her mouth, potentially embedded in her jaw.

Snow Cone had given birth to her first calf in 2020. However, its body was found off the coast of New Jersey last summer, having been hit by two different vessels and suffered injuries to its face and back.

Seeing Snow Cone with another calf means she has been able to successfully breed, despite still being entangled.

In the clip, which is just over a minute long, the calf appears to swim alongside the rope that is still attached to its mother, before dividing down then reappearing next to its mother's face. Officials do not think the rope poses a risk to the calf.

"The calf is new and the second documented in the Southeast this season," Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia DNR said in a Facebook post. "It's not entangled, but has been observed swimming in, through and around the ropes. General opinion is that they are short enough that the calf likely won't become entangled if everything remains as is.

"Based on the period of the mother's entanglement and general health assessments, we believe the entanglement is not immediately life threatening, but we and other partners working to conserve right whales will monitor the situation."

North Atlantic Right Whales are considered to be critically endangered. Estimates suggest there are fewer than 350 left, of which about 70 are breeding females. Entanglements and vessel strikes are their biggest threats.

"Please help keep them safe while out boating along the East Coast. If you see one, heed the law and stay at least 500 yards away," the Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia DNR said.

North Atlantic Right Whale
The North Atlantic Right Whale and her calf spotted off the coast of Georgia. MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife/NOAA