Beluga Whale

The beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is a marine mammal found typically in Arctic waters. The beluga whale is a small toothed whale that is brown-grey at birth and bright white in adulthood. The beluga is one of just two species in the “white whales” family, the other being the narwhal. Juvenile and female Narwhals can be incorrectly identified as belugas. Belugas, however, are typically more white than their greyish cousins.  Adult belugas are also slightly larger than Narwhals, reaching lengths of around 18 feet.  Interestingly, the beluga whale is the only species of whale and dolphin that has a movable neck.  Belugas can move their heads up and down and from side to side.

Beluga whales are restricted to the Arctic Ocean and adjacent waters.  They feed in shallow, coastal waters during the summer and near the ice edge in winter.  Some populations undergo long, seasonal migrations, while others are more resident in nature.  They eat a variety of fish and invertebrate prey.  Killer whales and polar bears have been known to attack and eat beluga whales.  Scientists believe that belugas may swim far into ice-covered waters to avoid Killer Whales but that this may put them at greater risk of predation by Polar Bears.  When hunting belugas, polar bears use their incredible strength to pull them onto the ice surface whenever they come to a hole to breathe.

According to Wikipedia, the native populations of the Canadian, Alaskan, and Russian Arctic regions hunt belugas for their meat, blubber, and skin. The cured skin is the only cetacean skin that is sufficiently thick to be used as leather. Belugas were easy prey for hunters due to their predictable migration patterns and the high population density in estuaries and surrounding coastal areas during the summer.


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