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Whale shows up for bay watchers again

A gray whale that wandered into San Diego Bay last week and became an instant tourist attraction was still plying the harbor’s waters on Monday, seemingly in no hurry to get on with its annual migration.

The 30-foot cetacean was first spotted last Tuesday, cruising offshore from Shelter Island, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The federal maritime agency has been asking boaters to stay at least 100 yards from the hulking sea mammal, and a whale expert from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has been keeping tabs on its movements.

The creature was spotted near North Island Naval Air Station on Saturday, and turned up the following day underneath the San Diego-Coronado Bay

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Bridge.

On Monday morning, the Coast Guard announced that it was suspending its

monitoring of the leviathan’s movements pending any further requests from the

National Marine Fisheries Service.

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Officials hope it will find its way back into the ocean to join its

fellow cetaceans on their annual migration from the lagoons of Baja California, where they calf and mate in the winters, to Alaskan waters, where they spend summers.

Joe Cordero of the Marine Fisheries Service said the whale, believed to be 1 or 2 years old, may be migrating by itself for the first time. And, like amjuvenile human, the whale is probably just curious. It could have chased some food into the bay and become disoriented.

It is uncommon for whales to stray from migration routes, but it

happens. In 1992, a roughly 35-foot gray spent about two weeks in San Diego Bay, until it was found dead with a gash to its head. The whale apparently had been struck by a boat.

Gray whales, which can reach more than 50 feet in maturity, travel some 10,000 miles annually. Around the end of February, southbound stragglers mix with whales already heading north; so it’s hard to say which way the whale in San Diego Bay was headed when he left the open ocean, Cordero said.