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Gray Whale Facts

To understand the importance of the gray whale, there are a few whale facts we need to know. Whale facts are in short supply among the general population, most of whom have probably learned all they know about whales from the Save the Whales news stories or Disney cartoons. Among the endangered whales of the world, the gray whales are a particularly important group. The save the whales movement has been successful in making a secure habitat for the gray whales, but they are again in danger and need our help. This will benefit not only endangered whales, but society in general. Here are some gray whale facts:

  • All whales are mammals, more closely related to cows than to fish—no one who knows anything at all about whales is likely to call them fish today.
  • They are warm-blooded, breathe air and give birth to live young.
  • Adult gray whale females mate every other year and are pregnant for more than a year.
  • Calves are born in January or February, and they can be up to 12 feet (4m) long and weigh 2,000 pounds (900 kg).
  • The Eastern Pacific population of gray whales, including the Baja-bound population, has the longest migration of any mammal, traveling up to 10,000 miles (16,000 km) round trip from summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chuchki Seas in Alaska to the winter breeding and calving grounds in Baja California.
  • A large population of gray whales uses the Northern portion of the lagoon complex of Magdalena Bay for reproduction, calving and nursing each winter.
  • The noise of boats in the lagoon complex has a negative effect on the mating, calving, and nursing of the gray whales who migrate to and from Magdalena Bay.
  • The Eastern Pacific gray whales have made a remarkable recovery as a result of legal protection but remains endangered, despite being removed from the endangered whales list in 1995.
  • The gray whale was once a common sight on the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans but the Atlantic population had been hunted to extinction by the 1700s and in the early 1900s it seemed that the two Pacific populations (Eastern and Western) would follow.
  • The gray whales, despite their early reputation as “devil fish” earned from fighting to protect their young from whalers, are actually quite friendly to tourists, and if they are unmolested they will attract large numbers of ecotourists.

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