Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

Delphinapterus leucas

The Cook Inlet beluga whale is a small, isolated subspecies of the beluga whale. Adult beluga whales are easily distinguished by their pure white skin, their small size and their lack of dorsal fin. The beluga has a broad and rounded head and a large forehead.  Belugas are toothed whales. They have broad, paddle-like flippers and notched tails.

cook inlet beluga whale picture

Beluga whales exhibit a wide range of vocalizations including clicks, squeaks, whistles, squarks and a bell-like clang.

Length 15 feet (males); up to 14 feet (females)
Weight Adult males 3000 lbs.; females 2000 lbs.

Life span 30+ years

Diet

Whatever fish species are most common including salmon, eulachon, tomcod, smelt, char, rainbow sole, whitefish, saffron cod and arctic cod, herring, shrimp, mussels and octopus.

Population

Just over 300 animals in Cook Inlet, Alaska.

Range

This subspecies is found only in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Globally, belugas are found mostly in Arctic and sub arctic water, as well as in the Cook Inlet and the St. Lawrence River.

Behavior

Belugas forage for food on the seabed. This typically takes place at depths of up to 1,000 feet, but they can dive to at least twice this depth. Belugas congregate and travel in groups from 2-3 to as many as several hundred. Some are migratory within their limited range while others remain residents of a particular area. They are found close to shore or in the open sea. During the summer months in some areas they gather in the estuaries of rivers to feed and calve.

Reproduction
Mating Season Late winter-early spring
Gestation 15 months
Number of offspring 1 calf
Young Belugas are uniformly dark gray in color. The gray steadily lightens as they grow up – reaching their distinctive pure white color by the age of seven for females and nine for males. Calves nurse for about two years.