A gray whale that wandered into San Diego Bay last week and became an instant tourist attraction was still plying the harbor's waters Tuesday, 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 Bridge.
This 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.
The whale, believed to be 1 or 2 years old, may be migrating by itself for the first time and, like a juvenile human, is probably just curious, said NMFS biologist Joe Cordero.
Biologists hope it will soon 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.
The animals, which can reach more than 50 feet in maturity, travel some 10,000 miles annually. Around the end of February, southbound stragglers mix with others already heading north, Cordero said.
It is not altogether uncommon for whales to stray from their migration routes. In 1992, a roughly 35-foot gray spent about two weeks in San Diego Bay before being found dead with a gash to its head, apparently having been struck by a boat.