Whale - strand, track, feels like a what?

From: Dagmar Fertl (dagmar_fertl@hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Apr 10 2000 - 15:06:09 EDT

I am Sarah Strickland from Honea Path SC. I am doing an independent research
study on whales for a class. I have some questions to ask. Please try to
answer by April 16 2000.

>1. What is the survival rate for beached whales that are set free?
>2. How do you put a tracking device on a whale?
>3. Why do whales beach themselves?
>4. Which kind of whale is more likely to beach itself,why?
>5. Why do scientists track whales?
>6. Have you ever met a whale up close and personal? What was it like?
>7. Have you ever touched a whale?What did it feel like?
>8. What is it like to be a Marine Biologist?
>Thank you for your time and patience. I really appreciate it!
>Sarah Strickland
Hi Sarah from South Carolina! Thanks for dropping me a line and some

1. It depends on the health of the whale. It is not easy to do follow-up
monitoring of a stranded whale that has been returned to the water, so we
really don't know what the success rate is from returning stranded animals
back to the wild.

2. It depends on what type of whale you're talking about, how long you want
the tag to stay on, and what kind of information you're collecting.
Satellite and radio tags can be shot into a whale's skin (kind of like a
body piercing). Tags may also be put on using a suction cup device.

3. There are a bunch of reasons that have been suggested and/or discovered
as to why whales strand. These include: parasites (including in the brain);
many strandings are of animals damaged by boat propellers, drowned in nets,
or new or recently born young that presumably were ailing or had lost their
mothers; social cohesion (lead animal in a group strands and all the others
strand with that animal); or even magnetic anomalies (confusing the
navigation ability of whales and dolphins). Disease and other natural
reasons (like old age) can also result in strandings.

4. I don't think there's any particular whale more likely to strand. I would
say that most mass strandings (where more than a few animals strand
together) are of pilot whales. These are very social animals, with strong
bonds between individuals (see social cohesion above in question 3).

5. Scientists track whales for many different reasons. They want to know
what habitat is important to the animals, how deep and for how long they
dive, how long it takes them to move from one place to another, migration
pathways, how they spend their day (how much time feeding vs traveling or
socializing, etc.). By tracking them, you might also be able to say
something about which other animals they have interactions with.

6. I've met a dolphin up close and personal (in marine parks and research
labs), as well as swum with them in the wild, outside the U.S. It all really
depends on what you mean by up close. I have been as close as maybe 20-30
feet from a sperm whale, but while I was on a boat, and not in the water. I
have touched a stranded baby sperm whale.

7. The only whale I've ever touched is a baby sperm whale. The skin feels
like a rubber inner tube that you might go rafting down a river with. The
skin is soft yet firm, and slippery.

8. Just like any other job, there are days when it's really great to be a
marine biologist, and some days that you wonder why you do it. Luckily,
there are more days that I'm happy being one!

Thanks for the questions and good luck with the project!

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