Researchers want to know why beluga whales haven't recovered

Researchers want to know why beluga whales haven't recovered

September 26th, 2017 by Associated Press in National Science

In this August, 2009, photo provided by the Department of Defense, a Cook Inlet beluga whale calf, left, and an adult breach near Anchorage, Alaska. The state of Alaska and research partners will use grants of more than $1.3 million for three years of studies on why Cook Inlet beluga whales, an endangered species, have not recovered. (Christopher Garner/Department of Defense via AP)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska wildlife officials have launched new research into a highly endangered population of beluga whales.

Aided by more than $1.3 million in federal grants, the research is aimed at determining why beluga whales in Cook Inlet have not recovered.

The white whales were declared endangered in 2008.

Mandy Keogh (KEE-oh), a physiologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says the population has remained suppressed at only 340 animals.

One study will analyze teeth from hunted or stranded belugas to determine how whale feeding habits have changed.

Chemical signatures in teeth can reveal whether belugas ate fish in the water column or prey along the ocean floor.

Using acoustic equipment, researchers will try to determine where belugas feed in winter and whether noise is affecting them.