If you live in Vancouver, your social media feeds have likely been inundated with pictures of a certain English Bay visitor. The persistent whale has been making headlines for days, but why is it here?
Everyday since Tuesday, September 29, including today, the grey whale has made its way into the waters off the city centre, feeding, swimming about, and delighting tourist and residents alike. On October 2, it even brought a friend.
It is not clear why Vancouver’s local waters are so appealing for the whale, however, there are some theories.
“That’s the million dollar question,” Tessa Danelesko, Coordinator of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, told Vancity Buzz. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network is a citizen science research program that collects public sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and sea turtles.
Danelesko and the other volunteers at the Network have been gathering photos, videos, and information on the sightings, and are equally curious as to what it’s doing in the area.
“We’ve been seeing it feed a lot, which is really great, but in terms of what this means for this whale or the population as a whole, that will definitely take some more long term monitoring to understand,” she says.
Grey whales feed in an interesting way: Swimming to the sea floor, they scoop up mouthfuls of sand, or sediment, using their bristle-like “teeth” – called baleen – to filter out sand and water, leaving tiny sea creatures like crab larvae behind, which the whale then consumes.
“We’re so lucky, right off the shores of Vancouver, to have such beautiful sandy beaches. So not only are these great areas for us to leisurely spend time but it’s an excellent feeding habitat for grey whales as well,” Danelesko says.
She also suggests the lack of competition in the area from other grey whales may be contributing to this whale’s return visits.
“We don’t have grey whales around this area all the time, and they to kind of clean up an area pretty quickly when they are feeding,” says Danelesko. “I imagine this one has found a bit of a jack pot here, and will spend some time feeding before moving on to a different area.”
While a grey whale is a pretty amazing sight, Danelesko says it’s important to remember to keep your distance, and to give the whale the room it needs to get on with its life, while making sure all involved are safe and sound.
“Any time we’re thinking about watching marine wildlife we want to make sure we’re doing so responsibly. One of the really neat things about grey whales is they often come so close to shore like we’ve seen with this one here in English Bay,” she says.
“We’re definitely encouraging people to watch the animal from shore, because any time we get in the water there is a chance that we could potentially harm or disturb the grey whale. We have to remember too that this is a really really large animal. If we get too close we could get injured – very much unintentionally – by the whale.”
Danelekso says once food in the area is gone, the whale will likely move on to greener pastures, so to speak.
“We’re pretty lucky to have it here in the meantime,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to see some of the amazing wildlife we have in B.C.”
I spent most of my time watching this creature parading around in the ocean entertaining us instead of taking photos of it so this is the only video I got! So cool to be so close to such a huge sea creature. I love whales! #whales #view #bonding #vancity #breathtaking #canada #vancitybuzz @vancitybuzz
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