Stopping by for a snack

June 12, 2001 11:00 pm
A gray whale spouts in the bay off South Beach. Several whales have taken up residence there in the past week feeding in the shallows. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).
A gray whale spouts in the bay off South Beach. Several whales have taken up residence there in the past week feeding in the shallows. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

They are seasonal visitors to Crescent City but are not always seen.

Majestic gray whales are gliding about in the waves at South Beach hunting for food and generally just taking a break from their long trek north.

We get some that kind of hang around most of the summer, said Jim Waldvogel, Sea Grant advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension.

A lot of them are juveniles that dont need to make the full journey so they stop here. The majority, however, will continue on to where they are supposed to be by early July, Waldvogel said.

Most gray whales along the North American coast will winter in lagoons in Baja, Mexico, where they will breed, and summer in the Bering Sea. So its not unusual for them to stop here and take a breather while they build up blubber for the colder waters up north, Waldvogel said.

They do like coming in real close to the beach because of feeding purposes and they use the headlands for navigation. Most other whales stay a little further off shore, he said.

Gray whales feed on amphipods and euphausids, which are essentially sea bugs and tiny shrimp-like creatures, which are found in abundance in shallow Del Norte County waters. Waldvogel said their usual diet consists of krill, small fish that are found in the Bering Sea.

The males have probably already gone by, or they are staying further off shore, he said. These may be mothers teaching their calves to feed and navigate.

Veterinarian Dennis Wood said people shouldnt worry about the whales being in distress or beaching themselves simply because of their proximity to the shore.

People get concerned that theyre lost or trapped, but thats not the case, he said. They know what theyre doing, so long as they stay clear of propellers.