Feb. 10, 2010: A juvenile gray whale comes up for air, in the shadows of onlookers observing, fascinated, from Stearns Wharf.
Paul Wellman

Early on Wednesday, a juvenile California gray whale was sighted in the Santa Barbara harbor between the wharf and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Ty Warner Sea Center. According to Easter Moorman, a SBMNH spokesperson, the whale did not show any signs of distress or injury and was displaying normal behavior. After reviewing early morning footage to provide more details, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Michelle Berman was unable to determine the exact age of the whale and could only venture a guess that it was male.

According to Moorman, “California grays are one of the most adaptable [species],” and therefore it is no surprise to find them exploring new areas. Berman agreed and added that a typical gray whale’s migration route usually takes it all the way up to Alaska, but this is no longer the case. It is now becoming more common for gray whales to stop in Santa Barbara this part of the year. “We are now finding that these whales are exploring new habitats and finding new feeding areas on their way to their destination,” said Berman.

While these gray whales are no stranger to the Santa Barbara harbor, Mormon did assert that this whale is too small to be the same one that swam into the harbor last year. Berman explained that last year’s gray whale was definitely feeding and stayed in Santa Barbara a long time, but said they can’t determine why this smaller one is here. Unfortunately, this whale did not pay the harbor as long as a visit as the one before. It was last spotted at 2:15pm but has not been seen since. Nevertheless, this new young gray has attracted a great deal of attention throughout the day from locals and visitors alike.

“I think this is a great opportunity for the public, “ said Berman, “without having to actually get out on a boat, they get can up close to see how rich our waters are.”


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