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Freed whale calf seen feasting on bunker fish off Montauk

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The humpback calf whose tail was anchored to the bottom of the Atlantic off Jones Beach State Park for at least four days until a herculean rescue freed him from two tons of fishing gear is surviving — and, while not swimming normally, has been feasting on bunker fish off Montauk.

“It’s really great news; sometimes we can go for weeks, we can go for years, before we understand the fate of disentangled whale,” one of his lead rescuers, Scott Landry, director of the marine animal entanglement response team at the Center for Coastal Studies, a Provincetown, Massachusetts-based nonprofit, said by telephone.

The 4-year-old was seen swimming and identified on Aug. 19 and 22 by Arthur Kopelman, president, the Coastal Research & Education Society of Long Island, of West Sayville.

That was about three weeks after Landry, part of a multiagency team, succeeded in what he termed one of the top five most difficult entanglements.

The steel cables and one-inch thick rope mooring the humpback to the sea bed were hidden from view and would have to be hoisted up, first by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel and then by a much larger Army Corps of Engineers ship. And even the Army Corps’ bolt cutters could not slice through the cable; Landry’s team had to borrow their hacksaws too.

“The wounds were apparent; you can’t mistake it,” Kopelman said by telephone. One photograph shows what look like sizable gashes in the calf’s flukes, the lobes of a whale’s tail that give it a T shape, and