BELUGA WHALE or white whale (Delphinapterus leucas)
Arctic and sub-Arctic species of cetacean.
“near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; however the subpopulation from the Cook Inlet in Alaska is considered critically endangered and is under the protection of the United States’ Endangered Species Act. Of seven Canadian beluga populations, two are listed as endangered, inhabiting eastern Hudson Bay, and Ungava Bay.
- known as the Sea Canary on account of its high-pitched squeaks, squeals, clucks and whistles.
- A Japanese researcher says he taught a beluga to “talk” by using these sounds to identify three different objects, offering hope that humans may one day be able to communicate effectively with sea mammals.
In 1849, while constructing the first railroad between Rutland and Burlington in Vermont, workers unearthed the bones of a mysterious animal in the town of Charlotte. Buried nearly 10 feet (3.0 m) below the surface in a thick blue clay, these bones were unlike those of any animal previously discovered in Vermont. Experts identified the bones as those of a beluga. Because Charlotte is over 150 miles (241 km) from the nearest ocean, early naturalists were at a loss to explain the bones of a marine mammal buried beneath the fields of rural Vermont. Today, the Charlotte whale aids in the study of the geology and the history of the Champlain Basin, and this fossil is now the official Vermont State Fossil (Vermont the only state whose official fossil is that of a still extant animal).
On June 9, 2006, a young beluga carcass was found in the Tanana River near Fairbanks in central Alaska, nearly 1,700 kilometers (1,056 mi) from the nearest ocean habitat. Belugas sometimes follow migrating fish, leading Alaska state biologist Tom Seaton to speculate that it had followed migrating salmon up the river at some point in the prior fall.