Monday, May 9, 2011


Gray whales are long-distance travelers, feeding in the far north and breeding in the tropics. Every year gray whales migrate more than 12,000 miles. Because they nearly always travel in sight of land, these whales are easy to watch.

Gray whales are a fairly common sight along the  west coast of North America. In spring and fall, thousands of people travel there every year to see gray whales pass by on their long migrations. However, fifty years ago,these huge mammals were almost extinct. They had been hunted for hundreds of years for meat  and oil. The gray whale population had fallen to just a few thousand
individuals. Today they are protected,and the only people allowed to hunt gray whales are Inuits and Native Americans,who use traditional methods and kill only a few whales each year. There are now around 25,000 gray whales living in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Gray whales have a distinctive shape.Instead of a dorsal (back) fin,they have a row of bumps running along the lowerpart of the back.In adults,the skin is always blotchy and covered with big clumps of barnacles.

Winter Feeding, Summer Breeding
Female gray whales are pregnant for thirteen months  and rear only one calf every other year. They mate one winter, give birth during the next winter,and mate again during the third winter. Newborn gray whales are much skinnier than adults. It takes the calf a few months to build up a thick enough layer of blubber,or fat,to cope withliving in cold water,so the mother must travel somewhere warm to give birth. That is why gray whales travel south to gather every winter in the warm,shallow waters of Baja California,off the coast of Mexico.


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