Photo by Mark Girardeau
Stunning aerial footage features a young and seemingly lost gray whale swimming in shallow waters in close proximity to beach goers as well as dry sand. Wildlife photographer Mark Girardeau managed to capture footage of the whale as it swam close to shore in Dana Point Harbor.
Many people were surprised to see a whale swimming in waters that shallow, and some were worried that the whale may be cutting it too close to beaching. There were also worries about the health of the whale as well as its safety. It was worrisome that it was alone, and in a spot that it was probably not supposed to be in.
However, it turns out that the whale was more likely than not doing well. People had been thinking that it probably got left behind by its companions and got lost, thus ending up in shallow waters. Marine mammal experts, however, beg to differ. Seeing a whale in Dana Point Harbor is certainly unusual, but there's likely nothing to worry about.
What was the whale doing in shallow waters, and why was it alone? How was it doing? These are pertinent questions that fortunately we have the answers to.
A whale-watching group had been worried about the whale and its health. The whale, which looked to be a three- to four-year-old juvenile, was young but it was no longer a calf. Whales spend their first year of life with their mothers until they are weaned away. The whale is thus no longer a baby, but it hasn't reached sexual maturity yet. What observers noticed, however, is that the whale seemed to be on the skinny side. It was also pointed out that the whale had barnacles and sea lice on its body, which supposedly indicates poor health.
However, Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, is convinced that in all likelihood, the young gray whale was fine. He says that the whale wasn't doing much that was uncharacteristic of its species. It was, however, strange that it was in California in August, since it should be in the waters off Alaska by now.
Photo by Mark Girardeau
Mate also says that the whale's weight wasn't surprising. Gray whales fast when they're migrating, so it's not out of the norm that it looks a little skinny. There are also specific things that Mate looks for to determine if a whale isn't very healthy. According to him, if a whale's scapula is protruding and visible through its skin, then its health isn't the best. However, the young whale seemed to be perfectly fine.
It's also not strange or worrisome that the whale was alone. Mate says that gray whales are intelligent and are quite capable of traveling alone. The fact that the whale was in shallow waters also wasn't strange or surprising. Gray whales feed on the ocean floor more often than we may think. They also feed on nearly anything they can get their baleen on. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the young gray whale in Dana Point Harbor was doing fine for itself.
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