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Saratoga Greys here for a month!

Saratoga Grey whale

In a Spring Visit, the Pacific Whale Watch Association Reports Sightings of “Saratoga Grays” in ‎Puget Sound Waters

KIRO 7 Eyewitness News (CBS Seattle)

February 22, 2016

Gray Whales Arrive for ‘Spring Visit’ in Puget Sound

In the great migration of 22,000 eastern North Pacific gray whales, researchers have spotted some swimming in the Puget Sound waters.

These massive creatures — called the “Saratoga Grays” — make an annual spring visit to the areas off Saratoga Passage and southern Whidbey Island to feed on ghost shrimp.

They start from the warm-water lagoons in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and Gulf of California to the Bering and Chukchi seas, traveling constantly at about five knots and averaging 75 miles per day.

Midway through the journey, the whales, which can reach 50 feet and 40 tons, take a break in the Sound for what some call the shrimp buffet.

In a spring visit, the Pacific Whale Watch Association reports sightings of “Saratoga Grays” in ‎Puget Sound waters. Click here to learn more about these creatures. Photo by Michael Colahan via Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA)

“It’s sort of like the groundhog seeing his shadow — except when we see the Saratogas, we know winter is about over and the whale-watch season begins in Puget Sound,” said Michael Harris, Seattle-based executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association. “For whale buffs here, this is particularly cool — for a few months each year, we get a snapshot of the greatest migration on the planet.”

PWWA released the following facts about the whales, saying that they are “perhaps the most paradoxical creatures on the planet.”

“They’ve been called ‘devil fish,’ fierce protectors of calves and the only known whale to fight back when hunted by humans, as they were almost to extinction in the previous century. And yet in calving lagoons such as Bahia San Ignacio, Mexico, they’re known as the ‘friendly whales,’ coming right up to small whale watch boats with their babies, allowing people to pet them. The Eastern North Pacific grays are also a poster child for species recovery, being the only whale population ever to be taken off the U.S. Endangered Species Act,” said the PWWA.

Cascadia Research Collective has documented 42 individual whales using the area since 1990.

Senior research biologist John Calambokidis describes this group as regulars with at least nine males and two females.

The “regulars” aren’t part of a population of several hundred known as the Pacific Feeding Group. Unlike those “resident” grays, the Saratoga grays head north again in late spring, rejoining the great migration.