Officials who were powerless to rescue a female humpback whale entangled in fishing line and injured off the coast of Orange County, California, were pleasantly surprised this week when the same whale appeared to have untangled itself.

The entangled whale was spotted off Newport Beach on Aug. 6 and 7. Mark Girardeau of Orange County Outdoors captured a photo of it breaching, clearly exposing the fishing gear.

Back then, the 40-ton whale’s evasive behavior didn’t allow rescuers to get close enough to remove the line and buoy.

When it was spotted again last week, the whale was wrapped in the line, but there was no trailing line to grab, Justin Viezbicke, the California Stranding Network Coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, told GrindTV. He said using sharp tools would be extremely dangerous for the whale and a rescue team, so they were helpless.

“With the main area of concern being the mouth and the pectoral fin, it makes it very difficult and dangerous to get in close enough to make any attempt at cutting the line,” Viezbicke had said.

Turns out, the humpback whale didn’t need any help, as the same whale was spotted this week without any entanglements. The whale was identified by photos taken previously that show distinctive markings and dorsal fin, according to the Orange County Register.

“Underwater footage taken from a Dana Point whale watching boat operated by Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari confirms that a previously entangled humpback whale has managed to free itself from the lines,” Captain Dave’s said in a press release, according to Laguna Niguel Patch.

How could it have freed itself? In recent sightings, the whale has been seen breaching and slapping its tail in violent actions that could have been attempts to lose the remaining line. Experts surmise that’s how the whale disentangled itself.

“This is so awesome, I would never have thought this animal could free itself,” Captain Dave Anderson told Laguna Niguel Patch. “I was very frustrated that we would get ready to go help it, and for a variety of reasons, had to stand down.

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“This is such good news and we are thankful to everyone involved in the excellent documentation of this entanglement. It’s a good day off the coast of Orange County.”

Anderson told the Orange County Register that the best part about the whale freeing itself is “nobody had to risk their life to free it.”

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