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Beluga whale spotted in Puget Sound 'appears thin'

The whale, which was spotted multiple times last week, is the first to be sighted in the area since 1940.

Editor's note: The above video was published Oct. 7.

The beluga whale that was spotted several times in Puget Sound waters in recent weeks "appears thin, but not emaciated," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)

Last week, a team of researchers responded to a sighting and used images, eDNA samples and behavioral observations to assess the whale's health.

Barbara Mahoney, a biologist with NOAA, said the agency is working to identify the whale and its origin. She and her colleagues wonder if it traveled from as far away as the Cook Inlet, near Anchorage, which is more than 1,000 miles north of Puget Sound.  

The visiting whale is far beyond the typical range for beluga whales, which typically stay near Alaska and throughout the Arctic, according to a statement from NOAA.

The only previously documented sighting of a beluga whale in Puget Sound came in 1940 near Point Defiance. 

The beluga whale is protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Whales from the Cook Inlet population in Alaska are listed as “endangered” and one of NOAA Fisheries’ “Species in the Spotlight.”