By Katie Brace, WBZ-TVBy Katie Brace

FALL RIVER (CBS) – An unusual visitor is apparently having a whale of a time off of the Massachusetts’ coast.

Now, researchers are trying to determine if one or two belugas are making a rare appearance.

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Juan Torres said he saw the visiting beluga whale in the Taunton River the evening of Tuesday, June 24th.

“People were screaming,” said Torres.

The beluga is a protected whale that usually prefers waters with icebergs.

A beluga whale in Russia.  (Photo courtesy IFAW/A. Lyskin)

A beluga whale in Russia. (Photo courtesy IFAW/A. Lyskin)

Brian Sharp is the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). He said the Taunton River beluga is about 1,000 miles south from its natural habitat.

After seeing posts on social media, the IFAW went to find the beluga. Using a helicopter and a boat they tracked the beluga in the Taunton River on June 18th.

“We tracked it underneath the highway, documented it in Battleship Cove and it swam underneath the U.S.S. Massachusetts,” said Sharp.

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Researchers found the whale was a healthy adult weighing an estimated 2,000 lbs. Sharp said they have no idea why the whale is this far south.

The IFAW recorded their video and then several days later a beluga was confirmed in Gloucester Harbor. They are trying to match photos to determine if it’s the same whale.

Sharp said the Taunton River beluga was also elusive – another sign it’s healthy – but as a result the IFAW will probably not attempt to find it again and instead rely on people’s pictures and videos.

A beluga whale in Taunton River (Photo courtesy IFAW/A. Lyskin)

A beluga whale in Taunton River (Photo courtesy IFAW/A. Lyskin)

Wildlife experts stress if you see the beluga, stay a good distance away from it for your safety and the safety of the animal.

You should also call IFAW in southeastern Massachusetts and NOAA Fisheries in the Gloucester/Cape Ann area.

Researchers said if there are two belugas, it would make just the third and fourth times belugas have been spotted in Massachusetts over the past ten years.

Video and two photos provided to WBZ-TV are with this credit line “Activities conducted under a stranding agreement with NMFS and IFAW under MMPA. (C) IFAW.

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