Sutherland Council Ranger called to assist with whale rescue

rescue underway
The rescue underway

Last Saturday (9 January) one of The Highland Council’s Countryside Rangers was called on at first light to help rescue a Humpback whale which had become entangled in creel ropes in the middle of Loch Eriboll in North Sutherland.

The local fish farm workers had reported the whale the day before but with fading light the British Divers Marine Life Rescue [BDMLR] who operate a specially trained “whale entanglement squad” assembled a crew to attempt the rescue the following morning.

Council Ranger Donald Mitchell, who is based in Durness Visitor Information Centre and covers the North West Sutherland area, takes up the story.

He said: “The whale was relatively quiet, a “small” Humpback, only about 30 to 40 feet!  It was potentially very dangerous procedure so the greatest of care was taken to slowly and carefully tie a line to the ropes so we could pull ourselves closer to the whale so we could then cuts the ropes entangling it one by one. At one point the whale was directly below the boat and lifted us out of the water on its back. A swipe of the huge tail could have sent us flying.

“We all felt the whale was assisting us as when a rope around its head was to be cut, it actually lifted its head towards the boat. After around four hours of slow and careful work the last few ropes went loose, the whale gave a huge mighty splash and disappeared into the deep – free!”

Donald added: “It was a privilege to be involved in this rescue, one of the great moments in my role as a Ranger. I have now been involved in a good number of seal pup and dolphin rescues but this experience was one of the best. It is good to be a Ranger and I think our efforts are widely appreciated, not the least by the Highland wildlife we love.”


15 Jan 2016