Unlikely visitor checks out local swimming hole

Residents along part of the Nepisiguit River near Bathurst got an unlikely visitor yesterday.

What's being described by witnesses as a small whale has somehow found its way to a spot near a popular swimming hole known as 'the Pumphouse'

Witnesses describe the creature as approximately six to eight feet in length and say the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have been contacted.

It's not known how long the animal has been there or what may have caused it to stray so far from the Bay of Chaleur.

Krista Petersen from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says her department is looking into the matter and that officers are aware of its presence.

Andrew Reid of the Marine Animal Response Society in Halifax, meanwhile, says the animal appears to be a young beluga whale and that it may be the same individual reported to be in the area in early May.

Reid says the nearest beluga population is in the St. Lawrence Gulf.

He says belugas are social animals that typically travel in groups, but adds one or two occasionally stray from their pods,  though nobody really knows why.

Petersen says the public should keep at least a distance of 400 metres from the whale so as to avoid causing it any undue stress.

Petersen says the whales are endangered and that it is illegal to harass or interfere with the animals.