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Humpback whale spotted in Sound off Connecticut hasn't been seen in LI waters

A humpback whale spotted in the Long Island

A humpback whale spotted in the Long Island Sound off Connecticut has yet to reappear in New York. Credit: Mark Tutino

Several days after video of a humpback whale in the Long Island Sound off Connecticut began circulating on social media, the animal has yet to appear in New York, though local experts are nonetheless interested.

Videos taken Sunday show the whale breaching the water near Charles Island, off the Connecticut coast near Milford, to the surprise of local fishermen.

Joe Schnierlein, a marine expert at the Maritime Aquarium in South Norwalk, Connecticut, said the whale's tail, fins and flippers easily match that of a humpback. Schnierlein added that whale sightings in western Long Island Sound are rare, with only a handful of any type being spotted since 1970.

"My records go back to about the 1970s and I'm not aware of any humpback whales coming in this area," he said.

Officials at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation are interested in the whale, though they will not take steps to track it unless someone spots it in New York waters, said Rachel Bosworth, a spokeswoman for the animal protection and rescue organization.

"We're not going out of our way to look for them," Schnierlein said. "You could literally go up and down the Sound and just not be in the right time and the right place."

Schnierlein added that while it's possible the whale already has left the Sound, he wouldn't be surprised if it is spotted again in the area. Boaters should stay at least 100 yards away and avoid chasing a whale if spotted, he said.

Mark Tutino, the Milford man who shot the video, said he'd never seen or heard of anything like it. He and a friend were returning from a fishing trip at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday when they saw a spray of water.

"I stopped the boat and we were looking in that direction and something came crashing down to the left of our boat," he said.

Tutino said he pulled out his phone and began recording the whale, following it from a distance. He emailed the video to friends Sunday night and the clip, as well as another by a friend, spread from there.

This recent sighting might be the only humpback, but it's not the first whale spotted in the Sound this year.

In May, video captured three beluga whales in Manhasset Bay. Schnierlein said another whale -- a minke -- was spotted in the Long Island Sound near the Connecticut coast less than a week later.

"We really could call it the year of the whales," he said. "Hopefully we'll see more -- you never know."

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