The gray whale is the only living member of the baleen whale family Eschrichtiidae. The gray whale differs from the other two baleen whale families primarily in its feeding behavior it is a bottom feeder.
Gray whales inhabit the eastern North Pacific Ocean. They spend summers in the icy
waters of the Bering and Chukchi seas, off Alaska. As the ice pack advances in the fall,
gray whales embark on one of the longest known migrations of any mammal. Hugging the North
American coastline, the whales swim south more than 9,000 km (5,600 mi.) to Baja
The gray whale forages along the ocean floor. Turning on its side, the gray whale gulps great mouthfuls of silt, strains out water and mud through its baleen, and swallows bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
Females give birth to 4.9 m (16 ft.) calves in the warm, shallow lagoons of Baja. While in the lagoons, some gray whales are unusually receptive to the attentions of humans who travel to the lagoons to see them.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, whalers hunted gray whales to the brink of extinction twice. Legally protected since 1946, gray whales have made an astonishing comeback. The current population is about 24,000 individuals, a figure believed to match pre-whaling numbers. In 1993 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that the gray whale should be removed from the Endangered Species List.
Female gray whales average 14.1 m (46 ft.) and may weigh almost 32,000 kg
(70,000 lb.) Male gray whales are generally smaller than females, averaging 13 m (43 ft.).
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