Beluga Whale Calf Rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center
Seward, AK (June 20, 2012) –The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) rescued a stranded male
beluga whale calf from Bristol Bay on Monday, June 18.
The solitary animal, estimated at two to three days old, was found near the Diamond O Cannery
in Naknek. The calf was first spotted after a large storm, and no other beluga whales were
observed in the immediate vicinity. The animal repeatedly returned to shore after being
encouraged to return to the open ocean. It was picked up after rescuers called the Alaska SeaLife
Center, who received authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) to attempt a rescue.
With support from Georgia Aquarium, three Alaska SeaLife Center staff flew on a Grant
Aviation aircraft from Seward to South Naknek airport to retrieve the calf.
“Grant Aviation delayed scheduled flights to enable this rescue to occur, and we thank them for
their fast response and accommodation to the special needs of transporting a beluga whale,” said
Tim Lebling, stranding coordinator.
While the Center was designed with pools capable of holding belugas, this calf is the first beluga
whale to ever be housed at the Alaska SeaLife Center. When the 5-foot long calf was brought to
the Center, it weighed 50 kilograms (110 pounds). The calf is currently being fed every two
hours with a milk matrix created specifically for beluga calves, which contains all of the
nutrients and calories the calf needs to grow.
“The calf is swimming on his own, cooperating with feedings, and breathing regularly, which are
all very positive signs. However, there are tremendous hurdles ahead. Because this animal is
extremely young, it is at a very high risk of complications,” said Dr. Carrie Goertz, staff
Beluga whales exist in five distinct stocks in Alaska. This calf is from the Bristol Bay stock, a
population that appears to be growing and is geographically distinct from the endangered Cook
Inlet beluga whale stock.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska,
responding to stranded wildlife such as sea otters, harbor seals, and whales. The stranding
program responds to beluga whales with the authorization of NOAA. Once a stranded marine
mammal is admitted to the ASLC, it receives care from our experienced and dedicated veterinary
and animal care staff.
Federal and state funding sources are insufficient to maintain the stranding program at ASLC.
“We rely on donations and private grants to enable us to respond to stranded animals like this
beluga whale calf. We especially thank Shell Exploration and Production, as well as
ConocoPhillips Alaska, for their generous contributions to the Center in support of wildlife
rescue,” said Tara Riemer Jones, president and CEO.
The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals
or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or
approaching the animal; instead, those individuals should call 1-888-774-SEAL (7325).
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction which
generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s
marine ecosystems. The Alaska SeaLife Center is an accredited member of the Association of
Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional
information, visit www.alaskasealife.org.
Posted: June 20, 2012