Federal Law Helps Dwindling Gray Whale Population Rebound

Gray whales can grow as large as a bus. On average, gray whales are 40 to 50 feet long and are typically covered by small parasites. Unlike most ocean creatures, gray whales are mammals. They are also omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and smaller sea creatures.

Gray whales migrate in groups, called pods. Like all mammals, gray whales must surface to breathe. When a group of gray whales are migrating, they can regularly be seen from North America's west coast. In the summer these whales live in the cool waters of Alaska and travel to the warmer waters off the coast of Mexico in the winter. These giant whales are swim 12,430 miles round-trip from their summer home near Alaska to the waters of Mexico in the winter.

After the gray whale traps tiny sea creatures by using its snout, it then filters these morsels using its baleen. Baleen, also known as whalebone, is a strainer in the upper jaw. Though beneficial, their baleen has also been a source of danger for gray whales. In fact, some used to hunt these creatures for their whalebone to create ladies' corsets and umbrella ribs.

Due to excessive hunting, in the 20th century gray whales were in danger of extinction. However by 1994, the gray whale was taken off the endangered species list in the United States. Now gray whales are protected by international law.

[Source: National Geographic]