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Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas)

Beluga whales are distributed throughout seasonally ice-covered arctic and subarctic waters of the Northern Hemisphere and are closely associated with open leads in ice-covered regions. Depending on season and region, beluga whales may occur in both offshore and coastal waters, with concentrations in Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and the Mackenzie Delta. It is assumed that most beluga whales from these summering areas over winter in the Bering Sea, excluding those found in the northern Gulf of Alaska. Seasonal distribution is affected by ice cover, tidal conditions, access to prey, temperature, and human interaction. During the winter, beluga whales occur in offshore waters associated with pack ice. In the spring, they migrate to warmer coastal estuaries, bays, and rivers for molting and calving. Annual migrations may cover thousands of kilometers. Belugas grow as long as 4.5 m and weigh up to 1500kg. Calves are born in the summer and remain with their mothers for about 24 months. They are slate gray to pinkish brown at birth but become completely white by the time they are adults.

MML Research Recent MML Beluga Publications
  • SHELDEN, K. E. W. and P. R. WADE (editors). 2019. Aerial surveys, distribution, abundance, and trend of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) in Cook Inlet, Alaska, June 2018. AFSC Processed Rep. 2019-09, 93 p. Alaska Fish. Sci. Cent., NOAA, Natl. Mar. Fish. Serv., 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115.   Online.
  • NORMAN, S. A., R. C. HOBBS, L. A. BECKETT, S. J. TRUMBLE, and W. A. SMITH. 2019. Relationship between per capita births of Cook Inlet belugas and summer salmon runs: age‐structured population modeling. Ecosphere 11:e02955.   Online.
  • SHELDEN, K. E. W., T. R. ROBECK, C. E. C. GOERTZ, T. L. McGUIRE, K. A. BUREK-HUNTINGTON, D. J. VOS, and B. A. MAHONEY. 2019. Breeding and calving seasonality in the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale population: Application of captive fetal growth curves to fetuses and newborns in the wild. Mar. Mamm. Sci. Early online.   Online.
  • SHELDEN, K. E. W., J. J. BURNS, T. L. McGUIRE, K. A. BUREK-HUNTINTON, D. J. VOS, C. E. C. GOERTZ, G. O'CORRY-CROWE, and B. A. MAHONEY. 2019. Reproductive status of female beluga whales from the endangered Cook Inlet population. Mar. Mamm. Sci. Early Online.   Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Beluga Whale publications
Recent MML Beluga Posters
  • Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas) Vocalizations From the Eastern Beaufort Sea Population
    4.01 MB  Online.
  • Acoustic Monitoring and Prey Association for Beluga and Harbor Porpoise off Two River Mouths in Yakutat Bay, Alaska
    962 KB  Online.
  • Spatio-temporal Changes in Beluga Whale, Delphinapterus leucas, Distribution: Results from Aerial Surveys (1977-2012), Opportunistic Sightings (1975-2012), and Satellite Tagging (1999-2003) in Cook Inlet, Alaska
    1.54 MB  Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Beluga Whale posters
Beluga Whale Stock Assessment Reports
MML Education Web (these pages are targeted toward students!) Management Beluga Whale Images Other links

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