Thursday, March 11, 2010

Calf count grows as does Wart's family tree

It has been a slow calving season but several new mothers and calves have been spotted and the calf total is now 16 with a few potential mothers still in the calving area. That ties the number in 2004, the lowest number of calves born from 2001 to present, which is much higher than the lowest previous number of one calf in 2000.

Wart has a new great grandcalf. Her granddaughter Insignia #2645, daughter of Slalom #1245 was seen with her third calf on March 5. Her first calf in 2005 died. She had her second calf in 2007 after only two years which is only possible in right whales when a mother looses a calf shortly after birth and she does not loose the tremendous amount of blubber to nursing a rapidly growing calf. The female must regain the weight before she can get pregnant again and this is done during the resting year after the mother and calf separate, approximately a year after birth, is pregnant for a year and nurses for a year which gives a three year calving interval. Not all females are on this interval and there can be great differences between females. When the calf is lost the female can regain the much smaller weight loss more quickly and be ready for her next pregnancy earlier.

Wart's family now consists of six calves, eight grand-calves and three great grand-calves. At least one daughter #1704 is presumed dead, as is her calf #2704. Shackleton #2440 created quite a stir when he swam up the Delaware River, almost to Philadelphia.

Although not one of our adoptive whales, Stumpy was a regular to the Bay of Fundy. She died in 2004 when hit by a ship just prior to giving birth. Her loss was devastating to all that knew her and even more so because of the loss of the calf. Her extremely large size made it very difficult to recover her carcass. Her last calf #2710, born in 1997, has had her second calf this year, her first in 2006. Stumpy's daughter Phoenix is a grand mother again with her daughter having her second calf this year. She had her first calf in 2007.