whale questions

From: Greg Early (gearly@downeast.net)
Date: Tue Oct 08 2002 - 16:41:25 EDT

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    -----Original Message-----
    From: Sue Shirley [SMTP:sshirley@dedhamcountryday.org]
    Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 9:26 AM
    To: gearly@downeast.net; pita@whale.wheelock.edu
    Subject: whale questions

    Hi Greg,

    The following questions are from my fifth grade students who just began
    learning about whales. Thank you in advance for answering them.

    Ms. Shirley, I've stuck my answers next to the questions.....

    from Allena and Katharine: How many whales do you, on average, rescue in a
    year? When I was helping to rescue whales (that was a few years ago), it
    would depend from year to year. If you include dolphins, our program might
    have had as many as six or seven a year that we would bring back to the
    aquarium and try to treat. The most we were ever able to "rescue" at one
    time was a herd of about 26 pilot whales that we were able to get out of a
    marsh and out to sea. By the way we would also rescue a few dozen seals
    and turtles each year as well...

     What is your favorite species of whale and why?
    Hard to pick just one. I have always liked sperm whales and pilot whaled
    quite a bit. Moby Dick probably got me started on sperm whales .

    How many whales are captured each year? These days not very many whales
    (or dolphins) are captured for aquariums and zoos. Far more are captured
    as a part of hunts (whales are still hunted for food in some parts of the
    world and commercial whaling is still going on in some countries). If you
    include dolphins and small whales, far more are caught unintentionally as a
    part of fishing.

    from Rebecca: Do you find more beached babies or adults? For seals, we
    find a lot more babies than adults. For most whales it is just the
    opposite. We find many more adults (and young adults) than young. This is
    because we often have whole herds of whales or dolphins come ashore at one

     Does anyone help you with beached whales? Lots and lots and lots of people
    help with rescuing whales (and seals). These can be people that are
    trained as rescue volunteers, or people that help with equipment (boats,
    etc) that we need during strandings. It is important, however that anyone
    that wants to help, find out how to be trained and become a member of a
    stranding team. Otherwise you could hurt yourself or the animal you are
    trying to help.

    On what beach are most beached whales found? On the east coast of the US,
    most of the strandings occur along the bay beaches of Cape Cod between the
    towns of Brewster and Truro (most in Welfleet and Eastham)
     How many whales typically beach at one time? Anywhere from one at a time
    to the most I have ever seen at one time (98). There are records of
    beachings (actually this was during a time when people would drive whales
    ashore to get oil from them...in the 1800's) on Cape Cod of over 1500
    whales at one time......yikes...

    from Matt and Alex: Are their whales in the aquarium? Not at the New
    England Aquarium. There were dolphins there until about ten years ago.
      What does a whale's skin feel like? A wet hard boiled egg (I'm not
    making that up....)

    from Esme and Callie: What got you interested in whales? It seems like I
    have always been interested in them. Tis might be because I grew up in the
    town of New Bedford (Mass.), which used to be the whaling capital of the
    world during the 1800's. There is a lot of whaling history around the
    town, and I can remember going to the whaling museum and looking at whale
    jaws, and a scale model whale ship (that you can walk on), and many other
    things that made me wonder just what whales were really like.

    from Conor and Brad: What type of whale beaches the most often? Around the
    Northeast the most common (if you include dolphins and porpoises) would be
    harbor porpoise, whitesided dolphins and pilot whales. The largest whales
    that strand are probably humpback whales and minke whales.

    from Nat and Nadia: How are radio tags attached to whales?Well it depends
    on how long you want it to stick on. Some tags can be stuck on a whale
    with a suction cup, but those tags will only stay on for a few hours at the
    most. To get a tag to stay on longer, it must be attached to the whales
    skin. On small whales (like pilot whales) tags can be surgically attached
    to pins through their dorsal fins. Sounds gruesome, but it is probably a
    bit like having an ear pierced for the whale.

     What is the most commonly seen whale in New England? Probably fin whales
    and humpback whales. There are probably more minke whales around, it is
    just harder to find the little guys...
     What species of whale do you know the most about? There are probably some
    people that say I don't know much about any whales, but I probably know
    more about pilot whales than any others (I've spent more time working with

     Where did you see your first whale? I saw a lot of bits and pieces of
    whales in museums, before I saw my first whole one. The first live (and
    dead) whale I saw was a humpback whale. The first live whale (not a
    dolphin or porpoise) I touched was a baby sperm whale that we were trying
    to rescue in a tank at the New England Aquarium.

    Thanks for the questions everybody.....

    Thanks again,
    Sue Shirley
    Dedham Country Day School
    Dedham, MA

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