Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whales migrate along coast

It's the end of December, and that can only mean one thing: The gray whales are on the move.

Over the next few weeks, around 19,000 whales will cruise by the Oregon Coast on their way to Baja, Mexico.

They started their journey out of Alaskan waters in October and are just now passing our fair state, and the biggest number of them pass in the week starting Saturday.

"The whales pass the entire state; they don't just pass the Whale Center," said Morris Grover, an interpretive ranger and coordinator of the whale-watching program for Oregon State Parks. "You can go almost anywhere (to see them) with this many whales because they cover the state."

The whales are headed to warmer waters to mate and give birth, he said, and the males tag along for fun.

"All of them migrate. It's kind of like happy hour at the bar — if all the women are down there, guess where the men are going to be," he said. "They don't couple up (in Alaska), but when they get into warm water, they go, 'Oh, this is a nice place to play. I'm here. All the women are here.'"

The whales travel at four to five miles per hour, he said, about the speed of us when we walk. It's also a tough trip because once the whales pass Oregon, they are effectively fasting because their food doesn't grow in warm water.

"There's maybe a little snacking in Northern California," he said.

It is, in fact, that hunger that prompts them to leave Mexican waters to head back up to Alaska in the spring.

Anyway, you can see them anywhere on the coast if the weather is calm and the waves are small, but you may want to stop by the Whale Watching Center, 703 S Highway 101, in Depoe Bay where you can watch movies and chat with Grover about whales

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