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Research Technical Report

Gray Whale Calf Production 1994-2000: Are Observed Fluctuations Related to Changes in Seasonal Ice Cover?

Perryman, W.L., M.A. Donahue, P.C. Perkins, and S.B. Reilly (January 2002)

Marine Mammal Science 18(1):121-144


We conducted shore-based sighting surveys to estimate the number of northbound migrating gray whale calves passing Piedras Blancas, California, for seven consecutive years (1994-2000). In addition, we conducted aerial surveys to determine offshore distribution of the migration in 1994 and 1995, measured day/night migration rates with thermal sensors in 1994-1996, and maintained concurrent replicate watches near the peak of each migration to estimate the proportion of the cow/calf pairs missed by the standard watch team. During good weather, we counted 325, 194, 407, 501, 440, 141, and 96 calves during 1994-2000, respectively. Correcting these counts for periods not on watch and for calves missed, produced final estimates of 945 calves (SE = 68.21) for 1994, 619 calves (SE = 67.19) for 1995, 1,146 calves (SE = 70.67) for 1996, 1,431 calves (SE = 82.02) for 1997, 1,388 calves (SE = 91.84) for 1998, 427 calves (SE = 41.10) for 1999, and 279 calves (SE = 34.79) for 2000. Calf production indices (calf estimate/total population estimate) are 4.2%, 2.7%, 4.896, 5.8%, 5.5%, 1.7%, and 1.1% for the years 1994-2000, respectively. Fluctuations in calf production over this time period were positively correlated with the length of time that primary feeding habitat was free of seasonal ice during the previous year.

Suggested Citation:

Perryman, W.L., M.A. Donahue, P.C. Perkins, and S.B. Reilly. 2000. Gray whale calf production 1994-2000: are observed fluctuations related to changes in seasonal ice cover? Marine Mammal Science 18(1):121-144.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
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