#27: 31 Mothers to Date: Some Interesting Stories

The last we reported on the calf count on January 13, we had 21 moms which was a record for that time in any of the past calving seasons. The total record to break was the 2001 record of 31 calves. Well, I'm happy to report that as of February 6, we matched that record. My job in this field effort is a remote one. I sit at my computer over a thousand miles away and match, or confirm the matches, of all the mothers and some of the other whales as well. Using DIGITS and images uploaded to servers by other research teams, together we try to have a real time assessment of all the different mothers in the southeast.

One of the mother/calf photos taken by Kara on February 7

Some of the 31 mothers down there right now have interesting stories. Two of them, Baldy (#1240) and Kleenex (#1142), gave birth to their first calves that we know of back in the 1970's: 1974 and 1977 respectively. Those were opportunistic sightings (there was little dedicated research on right whales back then), so they may have been calving for longer than 35 years! Whale #1515 has just a few sightings in her 24 years of calving and almost all of them are off the southeast. Where she takes her calves later in the year and where she spends her between calf time is one of those exciting mysteries! We also have the mother/daughter team of #1503 and her 1995 daughter Boomerang (#2503) both calving in the same year again. In 2006, the two gave birth and we could watch 3 generations of the same family swimming within a few miles of each other. Unlike humans, the generations overlap easily with females giving birth to their first calf at age 10 and continuing to calve for over 35 years. You could conceivably have a great, great grandmother calving next to her great, great granddaughter! In fact, I just checked and we have 4 generations calving this year- Baldy is the grandmother of Boomerang and both have calves this year. So Baldy has a newborn, a grandchild, and a great grandchild all in the same year!

Photos of right whale mothers taken during aerial surveys

Stay tuned for more interesting stories! there are plenty out there.



1 comment:

  1. Hello there. We are Wild Over Wildlife (WOW!) and are doing small fundraisers to raise enough money to adopt Baldy and Bugs. We are elementary-aged children who are horrified to learn how humans have impacted these majestic animals. We are committed to helping these whales as tomorrow's conservationists. Look for WOW! to make a symbolic adoption soon. We are praying for Baldy's calf to recover from the terrible entanglement wounds.

    WOW club members, voices for the voiceless