It was like a fairy tale: the story of a beluga whale who befriended the humans of a small, rural seaside community in Nova Scotia. The beluga was young, not even three years old when first spotted by people. Probably she had recently lost her mother. A rumor circulated that a dead adult beluga with a bullet hole had washed ashore before the younger appeared. This “baby” beluga seemed eager for the companionship of others… even if they were only humans. Wilma, as the locals called her, approached people on watercraft, whether small dinghies, small or large fishing vessels, or recreational boats. She often spy-hopped (raised her head out of the water) and gradually allowed (and later encouraged!) people to touch the smooth, grayish white skin along her head and back. Perhaps most of all, children delighted in seeing her; and they sometimes came out in boats by the dozen. They lined up along the side of the boat as Wilma approached; with little hands, they reached over the gunwales, stretching their quivering fingers toward the water in hopes that this magical creature would swim near enough to allow them a chance to touch her.
She often accompanied swimmers and, if they didn’t touch her, sometimes touched them with her flippers, often to the swimmer’s surprise!