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Whales 101



The Gray Whale in Baja Holiday!

It’s June! Time to plan the winter holiday … How about two to three months in Baja, Mexico? Gray whales have been making this annual trip for centuries! Not wanting to leave home on empty stomachs, gray whales first spend about four to five months eating – building up their strength and their blubber!

And while they are some of the largest animals on our planet, they eat the tiniest little creatures! Swimming along the bottom of the ocean, they suck in giant mouthfuls of sand and amphipods. Then using their tongues, they squish the sand and water through their baleen, leaving the food trapped inside their mouths. They lick off the baleen and swallow the food. During the summer feeding period a Gray whale eats about 2,600 pounds of amphipod crustaceans a day!

It’s October ! Time to start leaving the icy cold waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas and head south to Baja. Gray whales have two reasons to go to Mexico – to mate and to give birth. Morning and night, averaging 3 - 5 mph, the Gray whale swims 60 to 100 miles a day. Not much feeding takes place during the journey – for fuel the whale burns stored energy in its blubber. In fact, Gray whales don’t eat much at all after they leave their summer quarters, and this can last up to 6 months!

Mating takes place just before reaching the Mexican lagoons. Since the gestation period is between 11 and 13 months, there’s plenty of time for pregnant females to have a winter holiday, travel back to the Arctic waters for feeding, then return again to Mexico to give birth. After giving birth, the mothers remain in the lagoons nursing and exercising their babies, preparing them for the long journey north. Not all Gray whales stay in the shallows. Some males and juveniles like hanging out at the mouth of the lagoon, “surfing” the waves on the sand bars. By May – It’s time to head back to the top of the world. Each year the cycle will be repeated – and every winter it’s a Baja holiday!