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Eschrichtius robustus is the only species found in the Exchrichtidae family of baleen whales. Ranging, for the most part, in the North Pacific, the Gray Whale was once present in the North Atlantic as well. The whale is mottled gray (considered to be the scruffiest of the great whales) with numerous white, yellow or orange patches of barnacles and parasites which allow for easy identification.  Grays grow to a large size. Male gray whales are usually smaller than females, averaging forty-two feet in length.  Females reach an average of over 47 feet in length weighing-in at over 70,000 pounds.

During the 19th  century, whalers discovered the Gray Whales Baja, California breeding lagoons and hunted them to the brink of extinction for their oil (each whale yielded 30+ barrels of oil, which sold for over $30 a barrel in 1855  -- $1245 a barrel today's dollars!).  Legally protected since 1946, gray whales have made comeback to approximately 21,000 individuals, a figure believed to match the 19th Century pre-whaling numbers. In 1993 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) removed the Gray Whale from the Endangered Species List. 

The Gray Whale is probably the most widely known whale because its  annual migration takes it past the highly populated west coast of the United States.   This 10,000 + migration, from the Artic Circle of Alaska and Siberia to balmy shores of western Mexico is one of the longest known migrations of any mammal.

Gray Whales lack a dorsal fin and are adapted to bottom-feeding but they occasionally eat schooling fish, krill,  and even kelp.  This is the only baleen whale known to feed by scooping up large mouthfuls of bottom sediment straining the mud for food.  This diet must be good because Gray Whales average a 40+ year lifespan (some live over 60 years) and reach maturity after only six years.

Man is the Gray Whale's primary predator.  Orcas and large sharks have been known to attack Gray Whales by attaching themselves  to fins tiring the giants out and then moving in for the kill. For more information on Gray Whales see the links below.  If you would like to link your Gray Whale Web page to this site click here.



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