Pacific Grey (Gray) Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Garrett with orcanetwork.org joined Gwen Monday – March 29th – for an update on the life & times of wild whales in our area.  We are happy to announce Howard will be a regular guest on Whidbey Chat.  Beginning April 26th Howard will come in the last Monday of each month to educate and entertain us about our whale life. Welcome Howard!

This week Howard filled us in on the Grey’s (grey whales = eschrichtius robustus) that are visiting and feeding in the area, mentioning the Orca’s were a little late this year and had not yet arrived from their winter waters.  It was interesting hearing how greys eat.  To feed a grey whale will use it’s body (some think only the right side) to stir up the mud at the bottom and then gulp mouthfuls of the mud from the bottom.  Once the mud is taken into their mouths they use their whiskery baleen (a part of their mouth) to filter out the unwanted material, then their tongues loosen the food from the baleen, and they swallow it.  It is believed a single Grey can turn over 45 plus acres of mud during a season. This churning oxygenate the mud, exposes it to the nutrient rich water and helps to reseed for the next years harvest.   Grey’s mostly capture amphipods in their whiskery baleen.  Amphipods feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton and Grey’s subsequently feed on amphipods.

Howard then mentioned an emaciated Grey that has been spotted down south. He and others are unsure as to why this animal is so malnourished.  Being such a large and wild animal it is difficult to impossible to get close enough to discern the problem a distressed whale may be suffering from, be in illness or injury.  Howard mentioned that it could be mites…  (note: this is not proven – only assumed by an experienced whale expert).  He said orcanetwork.org and several other organizations and academic institutions are keeping an eye out for this distressed animal and hoping to find out soon if the animal will survive or not.   Rescuers and scientists want to ge to a deceased animal as soon as possible, before the body begins to decays in order to perform a necropsy (autopsy).  Howard talked to our listeners about the necropsy (autopsy) that was done on a dead Grey, found in the Saratoga Pass some time ago, and the pain staking process of doing an necropsy on an animal that is so large.   These scientific procedures are done only when a deceased whale is located, roped and towed to a location in time for the necropsy. ( Necropsy – “An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy (particularly as to animals), autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a medical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that caused the death”)

Grey whale’s are about 40 to 50 feet long, weigh 50,000 to 80,000 pounds, have a double blow hole (blowing up to 15 feet high), 9 to 14 dorsal nodules on their back (verses a back fin), and feed through their whiskery baleens.  The natural color of a grey is dark gray, though the older an animal gets the more color change one sees on their body ( barnacle scars,etc, skin conditions, etc. ).   Tune in to hear more each month from Howard Garrett of orcanetwork.org

The Orca Network provides local residents/institutions/academia with valuable information & daily whale sighting coordinates.  www.orcanetwork.org