Have a whale of a Mother’s Day!

Photo credit: José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there whether you are feathered, finned, furry or footed!

Since this past week was full of fascinating whale news, it’s the perfect time to highlight the trials and tribulations facing some finned moms out there (it’s actually more accurate to say knuckled for gray whales since they don’t have a dorsal fin). Mother’s Day coincides with the gray whale migration as gray whale moms and calves travel 5,000 to 7,000 miles on their return trip from the birthing lagoons along Baja, California to the feeding grounds north of Alaska.

This journey is fraught with danger as gray whale moms try to protect their calves from the ocean’s top predator: killer whales. Transient killer whales prey on gray whale calves and some researchers estimate that as many as a third of gray whales calves are killed by killer whales each year. But this is old news, here’s a couple twists that happened this past week:

1. During a killer whale attack on a gray whale calf in Monterey Bay, two humpback whales showed up and tried to intervene. This is a first or at least the first time this type of behavior has been observed from humpback whales. Definitely read this article by the BBC and watch the video, it’s amazing. Go humpback whales!

2. Transient killer whales showed up off the coast of Los Angeles and attacked and killed a gray whale calf for the first time in 28 years. For all the details, read this article by the Easy Reader and check out photos of the attack.

As I’ve said before, I have mixed feelings about transient killer whales since they hunt gray whale calves. Something about it seems cannibalistic, eating a member of your own scientific order just doesn’t seem right. On the other hand, humpback whales trying to intervene during a killer whale hunt seems noble, even if they ended up being too late. And then there’s the two gray whale moms who lost their calves after fighting valiantly to save them against all odds, so sad.

This is a bit of a dark post for Mother’s Day, but it’s a good reminder to respect and honor (even when we don’t understand) the mother of all mothers: Mother Nature.

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