Right Whale Migration Update: February 4, 1998
Right Whale Migration Updates Will be Posted on WEDNESDAYS:
Ahoy there. This is Anne Smrcina, education coordinator of the Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Plymouth, MA with the first right whale and humpback whale reports. These
reports will be coming to you every two weeks according to the schedule above -- unless I get some really exciting
news that can't wait.
It is here in these warm, shallow areas that calving takes place, in an area relatively free from predatory orcas, also known as killer whales. Orcas have been known to target newborn and juvenile baleen whales -- in California they sometimes form a gauntlet through which gray whales have to pass.
We know that the female right whales calve in this stretch of coastal water, the only known calving ground for the most endangered of the great whales. Scientists estimate that there are only about 300 or so northern right whales in the North Atlantic population. (There are several thousand southern right whales but they are considered a separate species.)
Although we know where the pregnant females (or at least most of them) go, we still don't know where all the others spend their time during the winter.
Some juveniles seem to make the trek to the Florida coast too (perhaps because they haven't learned where else to go). On other occasions it seems that nonpregnant females may be accompanying pregnant females. And once in a while, a large adult male is seen.
Scientists hope to be able to apply satellite tags and follow the winter migrations of these "missing" groups -- nonpregnant females, males and juveniles.
Some of these animals may not actually make a long distance migration at all. Over the past several weeks right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay --just a short distance from the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary. On Feb. 3rd, 21
whales were spotted in Cape Cod Bay. The general vicinity for this whale concentration is: 41 50N, 70 10W
The Bay and Bank are regular feeding grounds during February-April, but it seems that some of the whales may be making an early start at chowing down on copepods (small crustaceans) in these productive waters. Researchers
from the Center for Coastal Studies have been making regular aerial flights to locate these whales and photograph them. They will be starting the eye-straining process of trying to identify these whales from the photographs over the next few days. Hopefully in my next report I'll have some names (or in the case with many nameless right whales just their catalog numbers).
Here's a Challenge Question for you! Many of you may know that humpback whales are identified by the black and white patterns on their flukes. Each whale has a unique pattern, just like a fingerprint. But all right whales have solid black flukes.
(To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report)
How to Respond to Journey North Right Whale Challenge Question # 1
1. Address an e-mail message to: email@example.com
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 1
3. In the body of the message, give your answer to this question:
The Next Right Whale Update will Be Posted on February 18, 1998.