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Rescuers Struggle to Save Entangled Right Whale in Cape Cod Bay

A critically endangered North Atlantic right whale has been found entangled in rope in Cape Cod Bay.

On Wednesday, a team from Provincetown’s Center for Coastal Studies managed to remove 300 feet of what appears to be fishing rope from the 16-year-old female known as Snow Cone, but experts fear more may be embedded in her jaw.

“Her entanglement was very complicated — simple yet complicated,” said Scott Landry, who oversees disentanglement efforts at the Center. “What we saw on her yesterday was a very active wound around her rostrum. The rostrum is the long part of their upper jaw. … So we’re assuming that the whale still has rope still caught in its skull, buried many inches deep into the flesh of her head.”

Snow Cone was found off the coast of Plymouth, but, Landry said, it’s unclear where the whale might have become entangled. The rope his team pulled off her, he said, is “consistent with what we see in different types of fisheries.”

“Based on the injuries that we see on her, this has been going on I would guess for months, and right whales really haven’t been here in Cape Cod Bay in any large numbers for that length of time,” he said. "So truth be told, the entanglement could come from anywhere.”

She was last seen in July in Canada's Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and between then and now, the one-time-mom has likely traveled a very long way.

By removing the rope, the team gave her a chance to shed the remaining rope on her own. The team will be closely monitoring her by air and sea.

“If we have any indication that her entanglement is going in the right direction, meaning that she shed the gear, then we’ll leave her alone and let time do that for her. But if we don’t see improvement in her entanglement, then likely more intervention is going to be needed," Landry said.

“We think we did our best by her.”