Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Our adoptive right whale families continue to grow

I received the latest right whale calving numbers from the New England Aquarium and was pleased to see that both Kleenex's and Baldy's families have new members.

On December 22, Bugs was seen with her fifth calf. Bugs is the daughter of Baldy, born in 1982 and this now means that Baldy has ten grand-calves, as well as at least eight calves herself (the latest in 2009) and two great-grand-calves. Baldy was seen many times this summer in the Bay of Fundy but Bugs hadn't been photographed since 2006 in both Cape Cod Bay and the Bay of Fundy, which is not unusual if right whales avoid areas when surveys are being conducted. Bugs is named for a scar on her back that looks like the cartoon character "Bugs Bunny". Bugs had her first calf in 1989, her second in 1995, her third in 2002 and her fourth in 2005.

Right whale #3142, daughter of Kleenex born in 2001, was seen with her first calf also on December 22. This gives Kleenex six grand-calves, as well as at least eight calves (the latest in 2009) and four great-grand-calves. Interesting, #3142 was also last seen in 2006 in the Bay of Fundy. The year #3142 was born was also the beginning of the right whale baby boom with 32 calves born that year. Since 2001 over 200 right whale calves have been born bringing the estimated total of right whales to 438 in 2008 as calculated by the New England Aquarium. This is a complicated calculation that takes many factors into consideration and is not considered an exact number but a good estimate.

The weather has not been favourable for right whale aerial surveys in the southeast United States so this number of calves may be low. Let's hope for better survey weather and more calves are found in the next couple of months. We probably won't have numbers like last year (39) but perhaps in the 20s.

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