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Entangled right whale spotted off Georgia's coast with calf

A biologist says it's something no one has seen before.

GEORGIA, USA — Rare and sad. A right whale has been spotted with her calf off the coast of Georgia. 

This is the time of year that happens along the southeastern U.S. coast.

However, the rare part of this story is the mother whale is entangled in rope.

Video shot Thursday shows the North Atlantic Right Whale with a rope coming from her mouth. 

The calf is playing around her.

Right whale biologist Tom Pitchford with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said "It’s both amazing and terrible that the mother has this rope, even though it's cut short, and the calf is playing with it."

The mother whale has been named Snow Cone, and she has been on biologists' radar before.

She has been entangled in rope – likely from fishing equipment -- for months.

"It’s coming out of the mouth in two places," Pitchford said. "The most likely is the loops of line are entangled in the baleen plates that hang down from the roof of the mouth."

Months ago, rescuers in the northeast were able to cut much of the rope off. Then Snow Cone showed up Thursday with a calf 10 miles off Cumberland Island, Georgia.

“We’ve never seen a mother whale entangled in rope give birth, and while entangled, try to raise what we hope to be a calf that's weaning... all while entangled," Pitchford said. "That’s something no one has seen before. “

He said the mom and baby appear healthy but there is concern the calf could get entangled too. However, biologists don’t want to get close enough to shorten the rope even more "because this is the important time for calf and mother to bond and we don’t want to be buzzing around them with boats to cut the rope," Pitchford explained. "We're just going to monitor them for now."

For a diminishing species, every baby born needs to survive.

Entanglement in fishing gear and boat strikes are the leading causes of death for this endangered species.

In fact, just two years ago this same mother whale had another calf that was hit by a boat and died. 

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