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The Survivor

Three Scars

Known since 1993, last seen in 2010
Adult, gender unknown

 

Identification

Due to the clearly visible deep but well healed scars stretching over her dorsal ridge Three Scars is one of several minke whales who can be easily identified even from  a distance thus she is also known to many locals working on the water. The “three” very deep scars were most probably either caused by a propeller strike or a serious entanglement causing a row of deep and painful wounds. First sighted in 1993 we never saw the fresh injury or the healing wounds. However, the depth and size of the scaring suggests that she was very seriously injured back then. Three Scars has since been sighted every summer by ORES researchers.

Habitat use

Like most minke whales she prefers the deep water of the Laurentian Channel head and  most of her day-sightings occurred along the north shore between Pointe-à-la-Carriole and Les Escoumins. Rarely has she been seen surface feeding so that we have not yet been able to positively determine her sex. Her surface geometry and breathing pattern however indicates that she is often feeding at various depths of 10 to 100 or more meters.

Behaviour

Minke whales show not only spatial site fidelity but also temporal preferences for certain tidal phases especially the hours before and after high tide. A couple hours after slack tide, when the outgoing current increases steadily most whales usually leave the area but a few might stay and switch into a resting mode.

At 9:26 on the morning of August 15, 2005, we found Three Scars just off Bergeronnes harbour travelling west exactly following the 100m isopleth towards the end of the Laurentian Channel head (red track line). One hour later, she turned 180° and headed back downstream, again staying in waters around 100 m deep (green track line). When arriving off Bon Désir Bay, she rather abruptly left the slope along the coast and crossed the over 200 m deep Laurentian Channel (yellow track line). Upon reaching the Southern slope of the Channel, her up to then consistant behaviour became unpredictable and after a few more sightings in this area Three Scars disappeared at 13:46.

While minke whales are often following bathymetric lines and along slopes in the St. Lawrence Estuary (unpubl.), the sudden change of course and purposefully crossing of the deep-water channel was rather unusual. Although her straight course suggested travelling behaviour we do believe that it was a mix between travelling and searching. Besides indicating the importance of underwater topography on the navigation of minke whales in the Laurentian Channel, the tracking of Three Scars also provides a typical example of minke whale movement under the influence of the semidiurnal tide. Swimming upriver with the incoming tide, Three Scars changed direction at the head of the Channel Head shortly before high water (HW). Further analysis of the breathing pattern as well as more samples of this kind might help us to understand the area use and swimming patterns of minke whales in the area.

Special story

In 2004, a joint rescue of ORES and Park wardens saved Three Scar’s life as she was seriously entangled in fishing gear. Interestingly, despite the life-threatening experience in the Estuary, she did not change her preferred area use within her main habitat, the steep slopes along the North shore.

In 2008 rosy wounds clearly caused from a net documented another life-threatening entanglement of Three Scars. Nobody knows how she managed to escape again. Three Scars certainly is a very strong survivor who has faced death three times but managed to survive.

 

Read the full story and watch the video of the rescue.