Support Cook Inlet Beluga Whales by Becoming a “Citizen Scientist”

Conservation

Support Cook Inlet Beluga Whales by Becoming a “Citizen Scientist”!

Did you know that Alaska is home to 5 species of beluga whales, including the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale? Guests can sometimes view these fascinating marine mammals from The Point here at the AWCC from August – October. The best time to view belugas is during the first week of September as the tide comes in. During this period, beluga’s are on the hunt for the salmon running in Cook Inlet. They’ll also feed on squid, crab, and other invertebrates.

Spotting these beautiful animals is a delight for anyone fortunate enough to get a glimpse of them from the shore. The Cook Inlet Beluga Whales are geographically isolated and genetically distinct from other species of beluga whales in Alaska. They do not migrate and instead live in the Cook inlet year round. Belugas can live up to 70 years old and shed their skin every year. They have a yellow and scarred appearance right before donning their shiny, pearly white skin.

Belugas are among the small number of whale species that don’t have fins on their backs. For these arctic animals, lacking a dorsal fin provides a number of advantages. This includes cutting down on surface area, preventing heat loss, and allowing them to travel closely under ice sheets. Instead of the fin, belugas have a prominent dorsal ridge on their back that helps break open breathing holes in arctic ice sheets. Calves are born a light grey and as they age their color lightens to white.

Unfortunately, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale numbers range between only 300 to 375 and their numbers have been declining since the 1980s. Threats to their population include natural disasters and oil spills, pollution, disease, reduction in prey, and habitat degradation. Polar bears and killer whales are predators of belugas throughout their Arctic range.

Fortunately, there are many amazing groups and individuals who are working to aid in the recovery of these beluga whales. Interested in supporting their efforts? You can support Cook Inlet Beluga Whales by becoming a “Citizen Scientist”! Unique natural markings help tell these beluga whales apart, and by spotting and reporting Cook Inlet Beluga Whale sightings, you can help researchers better understand their population status.

Want to learn more about spotting and reporting Cook Inlet Beluga Whales? Visit the “Seen Belugas?” page at www.cookinletbelugas.com

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