Tracking Snow Cone: Whale and calf spotted off coast of Ponte Vedra

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WJXT 2021

A pod of an estimated eight dolphins (pictured upper right corner) lingered near the mother and calf for several minutes Monday afternoon.

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. – A team with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed a North Atlantic right whale named “Snow Cone,” and her calf, are swimming their way through Northeast Florida waters.

The local sighting was reported first by JaxAero pilot trainee Morgan Christiansen who was flying near the coast of the Ponte Vedra Lodge before 11:45 this morning.

Christianson and instructor Trent Walker said it initially appeared that the two whales might be stuck in a net. FWC deployed a plane to investigate the pair and said they were not entangled, in danger, or in distress. The FWC will conduct an aerial survey of the mother and calf but is not seeking to remove the rope.

Snow Cone, was first observed in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts in March 2021. At that time, she was entangled in several ropes. Ocean wildlife responders were able to shorten the trailing ropes but were not able to remove them entirely.

In early December, Snow Cone was spotted again-- this time off the coast of Cumberland Island, Georgia, and with a new calf. The calf is not entangled but has been observed swimming in, through, and around the ropes, according to eyewitness accounts.

Responders agreed that the ropes are short enough that the calf likely won’t become entangled if everything remains as is, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said.

A spokesperson for FWC told News4JAX so far this calving season the agency has counted six mother/calf pairs in Northeast Florida region waters, including Snow Cone and her calf.

“We have been monitoring her (Snow Cone) and the calf and both are currently in good shape. This is a special bonding time between a mother and a calf and to remove or further shorten the rope would be too dangerous with a newborn calf present. Right whale calves swim very close to their moms, making a safe approach by responders highly problematic if not impossible. We are working with NOAA Fisheries and partners are continuing to monitor Snow Cone and her newborn. To protect right whales regulations prohibit approaching or remaining within 500 yards (1,500 feet) of a right whale – about the length of a football field,” FWC Officer Chad Weber said.

READ MORE: A mother right whale’s perilous odyssey

Right whale calving season runs from December to March in our waters. Sky4 captured incredible images of the whales and a pod of dolphins that lingered nearby.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.