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Officials will try to herd humpback whale in Reynolds Channel

The coordinated effort aims to guide the 28-foot mammal gently back to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society said Thursday, Nov.

The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society said Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, it plans to coordinate an effort to herd a humpback whale out of Reynolds Channel on Saturday if it hasn't left by then. Photo Credit: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society

If the approximately 28-foot humpback whale that has been swimming in Nassau County’s Reynolds Channel has not left by Saturday, officials said they will try to herd it back to the Atlantic.

The “subadult” whale first was spotted about a week ago, said Rob DiGiovanni, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society’s chief scientist, by telephone.

“We didn’t see it for a while, we have had reports by people who thought it was going in and out” of the channel, he said.

The nonprofit has been monitoring the whale, which swam up to the Rockaways and got as far as the westernmost bridge before retreating back into the bay instead of continuing out to the ocean.

Its pattern of behavior is not untypical, and humpbacks sometimes stay with pods or swim solo, DiGiovanni said.

After being nearly hunted into extinction, some humpback whale populations were recently delisted as endangered, though they remain a protected species under the law. And they still face threats from humans, including boats and fishing nets.

Gale force winds are expected Friday, which will make it too dangerous for teams of boats to try to guide the whale to the ocean, the chief scientist said. The creature, which could grow as long as 60 feet if it reaches adulthood, will be monitored from land on Friday.

If conditions are favorable on Saturday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Town of Hempstead Bay Constables will try to herd it back to open water, the nonprofit said in a statement.

“If it’s moving all over the bay, and it’s hard to find, that makes it more difficult,” the chief scientist said.

The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society stressed that any herding must be done “gently and periodically, yet effectively, so as not to stress the animal.”

If the whale reacts negatively, the teams will retreat to protect the safety of the whale and of themselves.

Boaters should keep a lookout for the whale and stay at least 100 feet away, the group said. People who see the whale should call its hotline at 631-369-9829 or file an online report at sightings@amseas.org.

Long Island first saw humpbacks return to its waters in 2015 after an extended absence, experts said. And this year, at least a few have made their way back.

“We have been seeing the animals along the South Shore of Long Island, off Long Beach, for most of the summer,” the group’s chief scientist said. “It’s an occurrence we would expect would happen more often in future.”

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