Each spring, some 20,000 Gray Whales (Eschschrictius robustus) move past the western shore of Vancouver Island, en route to summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea.
The 30 ton giants can be seen from shore, as early as February, with females and calves passing in April and early May. They return by the same route in the fall, to their calving and wintering areas in the lagoons of Baja California.
Gray Whales belong to the family known as baleen whales, which feed by straining huge mouths full of sea-bottom mud through filter-like baleen plates. Tiny marine organisms are thus captured by the baleen, and then swallowed by the whale. These large and slow animals are often encrusted with barnacles and other marine life, visible when they surface.
Gray Whales were almost hunted to extinction in the early 1900’s, but have recovered well since their hunting was banned in 1947. Whale watching expeditions are available from the west coast of Vancouver Island.