Spotting Beluga Whales In Kenai
Each spring Kenai welcomes the return of beluga whales in the Kenai River. These critically endangered sea creatures travel in pods, singing the songs of the sea. Nicknamed “the canaries of the sea”, the beluga is extremely vocal, with a range of sounds from moos, to squeals, to clicks and chirps, and everything in between.
Aside from the hunt for food, there are a lot of questions that remain about why the beluga pods travel upriver. Many speculate various reasons, but the question remains: why do these majestic mammals travel nearshore to feed, and is there anything else alluring them to the Kenai River?
If you have yet to spot a striking beluga up in Alaska, you can choose from five stocks that surround our beautiful state. But while their numbers were far greater than now, these beautiful creatures have sadly seen a decline since the 1990s.
It is due to their endangered status that the community has taken great efforts to monitor their movement in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. This amazing effort is possible through a collaboration of community activists and wildlife organizations that train volunteers to monitor the beluga as they move throughout the area around Kenai.
Trained volunteers from the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership peer across the waves hoping to spot the endangered whales while recording observations and collecting data for researchers who are looking to both monitor their whereabouts and solve the issue of population decline.
This year, volunteer monitors spotted their first belugas in March and have seen a steady run since. They even report seeing mother belugas with their calves travel through the mouth of the river searching for their next meal. It is always a treat to spot a mother beluga with her calf on the river, as this offers the promise of the endangered beasts tipping the scale from surviving to thriving.
Beluga monitors hold an extreme passion for the work they do. Coming from many different walks of life, community monitors make up a mixture of animal enthusiasts, scientists, and more, but they all have one thing in common: ensuring their safety and security of belugas in the waters of Alaska.
Past sightings have happened from Bridge Access Rd, Cunningham Park, and the bluffs in Kenai. Reported sightings are rare, but that’s largely due to their ability to stealthily swim upriver without people noticing their gray and white silhouettes in the water.
Want to secure your shot at seeing the belugas this season? For the most up-to-date viewings and a list of tips, check out the Cook Inlet Beluga Site.
Interested in becoming a volunteer member of the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership? Click here to Check out the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership site for more information.
Want to know exactly when the belugas are spotted in the river? Text “beluga” to 833-541-0408 to have a text alert sent to you via the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.