Responsible Viewing and Virtual Opportunities

We understand that it is spring time here in Alaska and people are eager to get out and enjoy all our state has to offer. Naturally, this includes spotting endangered beluga whales in Cook Inlet. If you do decide to venture out along the Inlet please be responsible and know the current social distancing and health mandates for your area. Here are some helpful resources so you know before you go.

*The Municipality of Anchorage includes Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak, and Girdwood*

If you do happen to observe beluga whales incidental to your adventures please report them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project. Every sighting counts but above all else please keep your loved ones and community safe.

Virtual Opportunties

Even though it was the right decision, all of us with the AKBMP were really disappointed to cancel our first spring monitoring season. But we have some virtual opportunities for folks to stay involved. Check out some of the ways you can stay connected with the whales and partnership from home.

Local Knowledge:

We need YOU! 

Beluga whales are opportunistic feeders, eating a variety of fishes including salmon, eulachon, cod, flounder, and invertebrates such as octopus, squid, crabs, shrimp, clams, mussels, and snails. Current data on what Cook Inlet beluga whales eat is quite limited, especially in the winter, and based primarily on visual observations of whales in areas of seasonal prey concentrations (eulachon and salmon runs). While belugas are known to eat large amounts of fish in spring and summer, little is known about winter distribution and less about winter feeding. 

For example, beluga whales have been observed in the Kenai River in winter and early spring and rivers in upper Turnagain Arm in late fall but there is limited data on what fishes and invertebrates are in the rivers during these months. What could they be eating? 

WITH YOUR KNOWLEDGE, we can learn more about what species are in the rivers and other areas around Cook Inlet. Your information will help inform what belugas are eating in fall, winter, and early spring (September – April). By providing your local knowledge, we can start filling the existing knowledge gaps and contribute to beluga recovery.

The survey focuses on collecting information on Kenai, Kasilof, Twentymile, and Six Mile River, BUT you can also share information on any river or area in Cook Inlet. 

SHARE YOUR LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Please send this survey to anyone and everyone that has local knowledge to share. Thank you!

Hunker Down Beluga Spotting:

Help celebrate the spring return of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale to Turnagain Arm, hunkered down style!  

  1. Download, print, and color our beluga drawing, use a toy beluga, or design your own beluga. Or, if you have a printed photo of a beluga whale, you can use that too.
  2. Hang it in your window for others walking or driving by to spot. 
  3. Name your beluga and enter into a drawing to name a whale in the Cook Inlet Photo ID catalog. See the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project “Meet the Whales” page.
  4. Send your beluga names to: dfg.dwc.belugawhales@alaska.gov
  5. The winner will be announced May 15.!

Remember, Belugas STILL Count! during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay safe everybody.

More information: COOK INLET BELUGA WHALE DRAWING AND NAMING CONTEST

Beluga Storytime:

Beluga Whale Alliance teamed up with Four Valleys Community Schools to uncover the history of ancient beluga whales during social distancing storytime. 

Join them along the shores of our local tidal estuary and then travel with them to Mystic Aquarium and Ice Age Vermont for this virtual storytime featuring “Charlotte’s Bones,” written by Erin Rounds and read by Suzanne Steinert with Beluga Whale Alliance (BWA).

CHARLOTTE’S BONES STORYTIME

Kenai River Camera Monitoring:

We figured out how to bring the belugas to you! Thanks to a request from the Kenai Peninsula College team, the City of Kenai changed the angle of their dipnet cameras so that we could see the mouth of the river. Now you can watch the whales travel into the Kenai River from your computer screen while staying a safe distance from other beluga enthusiasts. Help us virtually monitor Kenai River by following these directions: 

  1. Click here to view live footage of the Kenai River.
  2. Survey the river mouth between 1 hour before and 1 hour after low tide. Click here for the best camera viewing times to see belugas.
  3. If you see belugas, log your sighting.

Thanks for your assistance in gathering this information. We hope this helps you stay connected to the belugas! And even when there aren’t whales swimming by, we hope you will enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery surrounding the Kenai River mouth. 

Backyard Monitoring:

If you are lucky enough to have the Kenai River in your backyard or a view of Knik Arm from your home, let us know what you are seeing! Maybe you are interested in beluga monitoring or have your own cameras you want to put up to share the experience with others? Shoot us a message at alaskabmp@gmail.com. You can tell us about your backyard belugas and we can help figure out the most useful monitoring times for your location.