Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oregon Coast Gray Whales

Off the Oregon Coast we see gray whales every month of the year. There are approximately 18,000 gray whales in the winter and spring migrations and a group of 200-400 whales that feed along the Oregon and Washington coast during fall and summer. In the spring March through June most of these gray whales make the journey from their breeding lagoons in Baja California to Arctic feeding grounds. On this northbound migration, small numbers of gray whales fall out of the migration group and stop at various locations along the Oregon coast. These whales are called resident whales.

For whales to be known as residents, they must stay around a certain area for at least two days, exhibit feeding behavior, and return year after year.This distinguishes them from migrating whales which stop on their migration and feed then move on their way.

Along the central Oregon coast, resident gray whales begin showing up in May. On any one day throughout the summer, numbers range from one to 20. Some arrive in early summer, leave, and then return in late summer or early fall.

Resident gray whales remain around Newport or Depoe Bay for a period of days to months. Some residents don’t show up for a year or more, there is one whale “Scarback” who been around for at least 17 years.The last of the residents leave in October or November and return to the breeding lagoons of Baja California to rejoin the remainder of the population.