GRAY WHALE FACTS:
Scientific name: Eschrichtius robustus
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Lifespan: 55-70 years
Length: 14.9 m
Mass: 36,000 kg
More About Gray Whales:
Gray whales are inhabitants of the North Pacific and are known for their “friendly” behavior towards boats and humans in the warm birthing lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. Gray whales are filter feeders, using baleen (large plates made of keratin which hang from their upper jaw) to strain organisms from the water.
Although gray whales eat some of the ocean’s tiniest creatures, they reach lengths of 35-45 feet and weigh 30-40 tons. Their predictable movements and curious nature have made them a favorite for whale watchers.
The gray whale is one of the most well known whales not only for their predictable movements and seasonal whereabouts, but also for their reputation of being “friendly” to boats and humans, making them popular with whale watchers.
The gray whale is a baleen whale, having approximately 300 baleen plates which hang from their upper jaw. The baleen plates which are made of keratin, allow them to filter food from surrounding waters. They are unique among large whales in that they feed on the bottom in shallow coastal waters.
Gray Whale Facts & Tidbits
- These whales range in size up to 14.9 m in length and weigh around 36,000 kg.
- Gray whales are bottom feeders and forage in shallow coastal waters. When they surface, you can often see the “mud trail” left behind as they filter the sea water out of their mouths, leaving behind the prey which they swallow.
- These whales undertake one of the longest migrations of any mammal, some traveling over 10,000 miles round trip each year from their Arctic feeding grounds to the birthing lagoons of Baja Mexico.
- Their only predator (other than humans) is the orca, which has been documented separating mother/calf pairs during their migration.
They are found in the North Pacific with two distinct populations, the Western North Pacific and the Eastern North Pacific. The Western population is found along the Eastern coast of Asia. The Eastern population is found along the West Coast of North America, in the waters of Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Hot Spots: Baja Mexico, California, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska
IUCN Status: Least concern / Population Trend: Increasing
In the United States, the Western North Pacific Gray whale population is Federally listed under the ESA (Endangered Species Act) as endangered. The Eastern North Pacific population in comparison has been increasing over the past few decades.
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Photo Credit: Jandirkhansen, Dreamstime