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Whale mom "Skittle" believed to have lost calf after she's seen alone off Massachusetts

Right whale calves seen swimming with mothers
Right whale calves seen swimming with mothers 00:17

BOSTON - An endangered North Atlantic right whale named Skittle is believed to have lost her second calf. 

Skittle and her calf were most recently seen on March 21 off the coast of Georgia, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division said. But just over a week later, Skittle was spotted on the calving grounds without her baby.

On April 16, Skittle was seen alone again in Cape Cod Bay.

"Young right whale calves depend on their mothers for nutrition, and may nurse for up to a year," NOAA Fisheries said in a statement. "Since researchers saw Skittle twice without her calf, the calf is presumed dead."

Right whale mother's second time losing calf

Skittle is believed to be at least 23 years old and has frequently been sighted off the coast of Massachusetts. According to the New England Aquarium, she gets her name from the skin pattern on her back that looks like a bowling pin in the British sport of Skittles.

Skittle and her calf, seen earlier in the year.  CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM RESEARCH INSTITUTE, TAKEN UNDER NOAA PERMIT #26919

Skittle gave birth to her first known calf in 2010, but it's believed that calf died shortly after being born. 

Fourth right whale calf presumed dead in 2024

Skittle's offspring is the fourth calf of the season to be presumed dead.

The calf of Juno, suffered a "slow, agonizing death," after getting hit by a boat, NOAA said. The calf was found off South Carolina in January with propeller wounds on its head.

There are estimated to be fewer than 360 right whales left on the planet. Scientists say the species is "approaching extinction."

"Every mom and calf is critical to the recovery of this endangered species," NOAA said. 

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