Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whalefest Week in Kodiak

A Gray Whale that washed up on shore several years ago. Local volunteers burried it for a few years, let the meat decompose off, and then they mounted it's skeleton at the Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center.

Visitor with Gray Whale.

Big, isn't she?

The locals take knowing about wildlife very dearly. Each year at this time we have "Whalefest" in Kodiak (and during Memorial Day we'll have "Crabfest"). There are lots of whales that come by here: the usual Orca, Gray Whales, Humpbacks, the 70 foot Fin, and an the occasional Blue Whale. Sunday they had a walk to see the Gray whales as they migrate by Narrow Cape. They reported lots of sightings close to the shore.

During Whalefest Week, they have lots of lectures. I, of course went to as many as I could. Did you know: you can tell which type of whale it is by how much of it's hump comes out of the water, or the heigth as well as the shape of it's water spout? Apperantly the shape of the nares is specific to each species. The color of their baleen and the fact that one has a white lip on the right and a gray one on the left are also used in identifying species form a distance. I'll use that while on my kayak!

One type has sexual segregation: the females live here, while the males live in Japan. They meet in Hawaii to mate. Then the mature males go west and the females and young come north. I can't remember which type it was. I think I got information overload.

This I remember: Orcas are really porpoises, not whales; they have teeth. And there are 2 types that look identical, but some pods eat only fish and others eats only mammals (they know this form necropsies). They've now done genetic testing and apparently the 2 are genetically different. They think they have not crossbred for thousands of years.

As I've said in prior blogs, the mammal-eating Orca like to attack the jaw and tongue of other specie's baby whales and particularly eat their tongue. Then they try to eat the rest of the whale before it washes on shore. They also like sea lions, seals, and otters. (I wonder if it was a mammal eater who attacked the lady at Sea World?)

This week the talk around town was about the pod of Orca that came into our bay and were eating the sea lions right by the gazebo at the park downtown. But those in the know say that is not quite right. Sure, they chased them down, put them in their mouths and shook them around. But, there was no blood seen, no end trails, or signs of sea gulls eating left over pieces of sea lions. So they think the Orcas just came in as a training exercise for their young to practice chasing, capturing, and tossing the sea lions around, but didn't eat them this time. That's the story. Hope you learned something about what we talk about in Kodiak.

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