1. Beluga whales are entirely arctic and subarctic. They inhabit the Arctic Ocean and its adjoining seas, including the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Beaufort Sea, Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Nowak, 1991).
2. During certain times of the year belugas can be found in large rivers such as the Amur River of Russia, and the Yukon and St. Lawrence rivers of Canada (Nowak, 1991). Belugas have been found 1,995 km (1,240 mi.) up the Amur River, and 965 km (600 mi.) up the Yukon (Alaska Geographic Society, 1978).
1. During the summer months, most belugas inhabit icy waters of the arctic and subarctic, where water temperatures may be as low as 0-C (32-F). They swim among icebergs and ice floes.
2. Belugas are generally found in shallow coastal waters, often in water barely deep enough to cover their bodies (Ridgway and Harrison, 1981). They may also frequent deeper waters (Leatherwood and Reeves, 1983).
3. In the summer many populations are found in warm-water estuaries and river basins(Leatherwood and Reeves, 1983). Belugas seem to be well adapted to both a cold ocean habitat and a warmer freshwater habitat (Leatherwood and Reeves, 1983).
1. Some beluga populations make seasonal migrations, while others remain in a relatively small area year-round (Nowak, 1991; Leatherwood and Reeves, 1983).
2. Environmental conditions determine migration behavior.
a. Most beluga whales migrate south as the ice pack advances in the autumn. One population of beluga whales summers in the Mackenzie River estuary of Northwest Territories, Canada, and migrates 5,000 km (3,105 mi.) southwest to coastal areas of the Bering Sea in the winter.
b. Many populations of belugas migrate north in the autumn. Belugas that spend the summer in Hudson Bay estuaries migrate north into the open bay in the winter (Nowak, 1991; Leatherwood and Reeves, 1983).
c.Belugas may migrate to either shallower or deeper waters (Nowak, 1991).
The world population of beluga whales is estimated to be about 62,000 to 80,000 (NMFS, 1994).
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