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kidsquest
title: beluga whales
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 Beluga Whales
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Misc. Animal FAQs
FAQ Bibliography
  Where are beluga whales found in the wild?
Where is the beluga's dorsal fin?
What/How much do belugas eat?
What are the names of the belugas at Shedd?
What are the origins of the names?

How long do belugas live?
How old are the belugas at Shedd?
How big are the belugas at Shedd?
Where do Shedd's belugas come from?
How fast can belugas swim?
How long can belugas hold their breath?
What are threats to belugas in the wild?
What is the gestation period for beluga whales?
Do beluga whales mate for life?
Does Shedd have room for any more whales?
What is a beluga calf's size at birth?
What does a calf look like?
How is a beluga calf born?
What is the nursing period for beluga whales?
How long will the mother and calf remain a pair?




Why are the whales in a smaller habitat than the dolphins?
Beluga whales are coastal animals. They tend to stay in smaller areas near the coasts rather than swim around in open waters. Our Secluded Bay and Misty Passage habitats far exceed the standards set by federal regulations. The dolphins, on the other hand, are open-water animals. In addition, they are one of the most acrobatic species of cetacean. Therefore, they require a larger habitat.
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Where are beluga whales found in the wild?
Belugas are found in the waters of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Norway and Greenland, forming at least 16 different populations. One of the largest populations in the world is located in western Hudson Bay, in central Canada, numbering approximately 23,000.
Belugas are also found several hundred miles up certain rivers, such as the Yukon and St. Lawrence Rivers in Canada.
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Where is the beluga's dorsal fin?
Belugas do not have a dorsal fin; instead, they have a dorsal ridge. This allows them to swim freely beneath icy waters. Also, belugas can use this dorsal ridge to break through ice up to four inches thick to create a breathing hole.
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What/How much do belugas eat?
In the wild, belugas eat more than a hundred different types of animals. General prey include small squid, clams, crabs, shrimp, octopus, salmon, smelt, flounder, sole, sculpin, herring, whitefish, cod and capelin. Adult belugas may consume 40 to 80 pounds of food each day.
At Shedd the belugas eat herring, capelin and squid (all restaurant grade and all "fresh frozen"). Our belugas eat 40 to 80 pounds of food each day.
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What are the names of the belugas at Shedd? What are the origins of the names?
The belugas have names from the language of the Inuit, the native people of the Canadian artic. The names are Puiji (poooEEojee - "Those Who Show Their Noses"), Naluark (nahoLOOoark - "Whitened Skin"), Mauyak (MYoack - "Soft Snow"), Naya (NYEoah - "Little Sister to a Male"), Kayavak (KAHo yaho vok - "Singing Game That Produces Soft Echoes") and Qannik (kahoNIK - "Snowflake").
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How long do belugas live?
Longevity varies among different beluga populations. In general, females live longer than males. An average life span is said to be about 10 to 15 years in the wild, although available data is limited. Some belugas may live up to 30 years.
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How old are the belugas at Shedd?
The belugas were all born between 1981 and 2000.
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How big are the belugas at Shedd?
The adult belugas at Shedd range from approximately 10' 5" to 13' and weigh between 1000 and 2100 pounds.
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Where do Shedd's belugas come from?
The Aquarium's belugas come from western Hudson Bay, Canada, the largest stock of beluga whales in the world. This population, estimated at more than 23,000 animals, is considered to be healthy and stable.
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How fast can belugas swim?
The belugas swim at a maximum speed of about 15 miles per hour.
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How long can belugas hold their breath?
Belugas can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes when diving. During normal swimming, however, they may breath two to five times a minute.
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What are threats to belugas in the wild?
Belugas have been heavily hunted on a commercial basis for 200 years, beginning in the early 1700s and ending in the mid-1900s. Some populations were severely depleted by commercial hunting in the past and continue to be threatened or endangered to this day.
Present threats to the recovery of these populations include uncontrolled native subsistence hunting, toxic chemical contamination (especially in the St. Lawrence River) and the presence of hydroelectric dams (James Bay). Other potential threats may include habitat loss due to development along shorelines, disturbance due to commercial shipping, oil exploration, tourism and contamination due to oil spills.
Natural predators of the belugas include orca whales and polar bears.
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What is the gestation period for beluga whales?
Beluga whales gestate for a period of 14 to 16 months.
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Do beluga whales mate for life?
No. Like most toothed whales, beluga whales do not mate for life.
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Does Shedd have room for any more whales?
Yes! The Oceanarium was designed with the long-term goal of breeding and to accommodate many more animals than it currently houses. The habitats far exceed government requirements for habitat size..
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What is a beluga calf's size at birth?
Weight: 80 to 125 pounds
Length: 3 to 5 feet
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What does a calf look like?
At birth a calf is dark gray or brown. In addition, it has several distinctive creases around its body. These are fetal folds and start to disappear after several weeks. Teeth do not usually develop until the calf is 2 years old.
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How is a beluga calf born?
In 90 percent of beluga whale births, the calf is born tail first. In some cases, the head emerges first. When this happens the birth takes place a lot more quickly. Once the tail appears, approximately 30 minutes to three hours elapse until the calf is born. The umbilical cord snaps during birth. The mother whale will pass the placenta within two to 12 hours.
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What is the nursing period for beluga whales? How long will the mother and calf remain a pair?
The nursing period for belugas and their young is 12 to 18 months. A Beluga calf will usually remain with its mother for about 18 months. It varies from individual to individual, but it is usually at around the 18-month mark that a calf is weaned and begins to venture out on its own. Some studies have indicated that a male calf is more prone to breaking ties with mom sooner than a female calf.
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