Wildlife

Adorable beluga calf rescued in Cook Inlet will be sent to Texas

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: February 9
  • Published February 8
Tyonek, the young beluga at the Alaska SeaLife Center opens its mouth wide in December 2017. (Samra Asrat / Alaska SeaLife Center)
Ray Molnar from Mystic Aquarium works with the young beluga in November 2017 at the Alaska SeaLife Center. (Photo provided by Alaska SeaLife Center)
A Cook Inlet beluga calf was spotted on the western shore of Cook Inlet at Trading Bay by NOAA Law Enforcement officer Noah Meisenheimer on Sept. 30, 2017. Photo authorized by MMHSRP’s MMPA/ESA #18786-01. (Photo by Noah Meisenheimer)
Tyonek, the young beluga at the Alaska SeaLife Center. (Alaska SeaLife Center)
Jennifer Odell from Georgia Aquarium works with the young beluga in December 2017 at the Alaska SeaLife Center. (Chloe Rossman / Alaska SeaLife Center MMHSRP MMPA/ESA #18786-02)
The beluga calf at the beginning of October 2017 at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. (Alaska SeaLife Center)
Maura Redding from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago works with the beluga calf at the beginning of October 2017 at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. (Alaska SeaLife Center)
Steve Aibel of Shedd Aquarium, left, and Carey Richard of Mystic Aquarium work with the beluga calf at the beginning of October 2017 at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. (Alaska SeaLife Center)

A rescued Cook Inlet beluga whale calf named Tyonek who has been rehabilitating at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward is set to relocate to Texas.

SeaWorld San Antonio will be the new permanent home for the beluga, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

NOAA Fisheries determined Tyonek would not be able to survive in the wild, and thus can't be released.

"Tyonek was less than a month old when he stranded, is nutritionally and socially dependent, and lacks both survival and socialization skills needed to be successful on his own in the wild," NOAA said in a statement. It's likely that his mother either abandoned him or died.

"NOAA Fisheries will continue to work with Alaska SeaLife Center and SeaWorld San Antonio to coordinate the safe and speedy transport of Tyonek to his new home," the agency said.

Tyonek was rescued from the west side of Cook Inlet in September. When he arrived at the Alaska SeaLife Center, he was in critical condition and "the odds were against him," director of animal health Carrie Goertz told the Anchorage Daily News in January.

By December, things started to turn around. He gained weight, grew longer, and his condition improved.

NOAA chose the San Antonio SeaWorld location because there are other belugas there, both adult females and young male calves, which will help with his social development.

Cook Inlet beluga whales were listed as an endangered species in 2008.

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