Depoe Bay’s Resident Whales
Some gray whales do not continue on to Alaskan waters but stay off the coast of Oregon between June and November. These part time residents number about 200. About 60 whales are seen repeatedly off the central coast and have been photographed and identified. Of these, about 40 hang out between Lincoln City and Newport each year because that seems to be what the food supply will support.
For whales to be known as residents, they must stay around a certain area for at least two days, exhibit feeding behavior, and return year after year. This distinguishes them from migrating whales which stop on their migration and feed then move on their way. Along the coast of Depoe Bay, our resident gray whales begin showing up in May. On any one day throughout the summer, numbers range from 1 to 20. Some arrive in early summer, leave, and then return in late summer or early fall. The last of the resident whales leave in October or November and return to the breeding lagoons of Baja California to rejoin the remainder of the population.
Resident gray whales remain around Depoe Bay for a period of days to months, there is one gray whale named Scarback who has been around for at least 33 years. I first sighted Scarback while stationed in the Coast Guard in Newport; she is the most famous resident gray whale here in Depoe Bay. Scarback has been around since 1979 and can be identified by the large scar on her right dorsal hump. It is believed that Scarback got her wound from an exploding harpoon which happened sometime between 1985 and 1988.
In the pictures above notice the orange coloration of the scar, this is whale lice, it is a crustacean that eats dead skin and is actually beneficial to the whale. Whale lice feed on the skin and damaged tissue actually helping the whales. The lice gather around open wounds or scars of the whale. These lice can spread from mother whales to their calves during birth, and nursing. To get rid of the whale lice, whales rub themselves along the sea bottom or breach. Gray whales feed on the bottom sediments such as amphipods and scrape off barnacles and whale lice as they feed.
Every year I get excited about when Scarback will return along with some of our other resident whales such as, Eagle Eye, Dotsee, and Ice Cap to name a few.
I hope you will join us whale watching zodiac style on the Whales Tail to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat. If you would like to make plans in advance you can make online Reservation’s.
The Whales Tail, LLC
270 Coast Guard Dr.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
Toll Free: 1.800.733.8915