Representatives of wildlife successfully rescued a humpback whale that was found entangled in a 300-pound crab trap

A pair of local residents first spotted the whale on October 10th off the coast of Gustavus, Alaska. Gustavus is surrounded by the Glacier Bay National Park, adjacent to the so-called "Icy Strait," a popular feeding ground for humpback whales in the spring, summer, and fall.

However, this particular whale was not feeding. According to the park service's rescue report, it was observed "trailing two buoys, making unusual sounds, and having difficulty swimming freely."

"In a sense, the whale was tethered," said Janet Neilson, a whale biologist with the NPS. "It was bent in the shape of a 'C.' The line was so taut that it couldn't swim in a straight line," she told NPR.

Neilson and her colleagues contacted the owners of the crab trap gear, who confirmed that a 300-pound crab trap and 450 feet of heavy line were missing. The whale had likely been entangled for about three days.

Humpback whales actually get entangled in traps more often than people realize, says Neilson. "Usually, they can fairly quickly get themselves out, just by breaching and getting themselves free with vigorous behavior."

But the longer it goes on, the more likely it is that the whale will panic, roll, and thrash around, making the entanglement more complicated and life-threatening.

In cases where human intervention can save a whale's life, one agency sanctions the rescue operation: the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Rescue teams spent a whole day attempting to free the whale from the 450-foot heavy line. The next morning, NOAA assembled a team of trained experts.

By fortunate chance, a few rescuers spotted the whale and its buoys during a flight from Juneau, Alaska. The animal had moved about a mile from where it was initially spotted.