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Why do Gray Whale Mothers and Calves Swim so Close to Shore?

Mother Gray Whale and Calf – Photo courtesy of Guy Loucks

Dear Whale Lovers,

It’s a long migration from the gray whale breeding lagoons of Baja, Mexico to the cold seas of Alaska. So why do we often see mother gray whales and their babies taking time out to swim toward the shore and even stop to frolick in the surf? Here are the reasons that some whale experts have suggested:

1. To stay out of the radar of their predators, the transients killer whales.

2. To nurse their babies in more shallow water.

3. The mother whales are teaching their babies the migration route between Baja and Alaska. They might slow down and look around in order to show their calf specific navigation points along the coast. This will help the youngster successfully navigate on their own during the following year’s migration.

4. To strengthen the calves’ muscles and build their strength in the surf. This comes in handy for the long migration ahead.

5. Gray whales are very comfortable in shallow water. Even in their summer feeding grounds, they are often close to shore. Much of this is because they are bottom feeders and can find some of their favorite crustecean foods in the mud in shallow water.

6. Some gray whales like to rub against the big rocks in the coves. 

7. Perhaps for fun.

8. And more reasons that only a whale knows!

Lover of Whales and All Things Wild,



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Birdsong is an environmental songstress who is passionate about about Nature, music and inspiring kids to be students and stewards of the Earth.  Read more...


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– Mirna F, Montessori Teacher

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