Summer and Fall Movements of Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) from Northeastern Baffin Island towards Northern Davis Strait

R. Dietz, M.P. Heide-Jørgensen, P.R. Richard, M. Acquarone


Ten narwhals (Monodon monoceros) were instrumented with satellite-linked radio transmitters in Tremblay Sound in August 1997 (N = 5) and August 1998 (N = 5). All whales stayed in the waters around Bylot Island until the end of September. On the basis of these animals and others tagged previously (total N = 24), it is believed that the Bylot Island summering population has limited or no contact with other summering populations in Canada or Greenland. Four whales were monitored during their southward movement along the east coast of Baffin Island. Three of them travelled close to the shore, visiting several fjords and bays, during September and October. The fourth whale started the southward migration at the same time as the other three, but it returned to the area east of Pond Inlet and made two trips northeast of Bylot Island. It headed south on 21 October 1998. South of Royal Society Fiord, it travelled offshore along the continental slope (1000 to 1500 m), probably because of ice formation in inshore areas. This narwhal and another male tagged in 1997 moved east toward the northern parts of the Davis Strait, reaching an area midway between Canada and Greenland in early November. Their winter movements were monitored until 30 January. The same wintering area in northern Davis Strait was previously documented for two male narwhals tracked from Melville Bay, NW Greenland, in 1993 and 1994. The whales showed a preference for deep areas, including deep fjords and the continental slope, where depths ranged between 500 and 1500 m. Even deeper areas, where maximum daily dives exceeded 1000 m, were also visited occasionally.


narwhal; Monodon monoceros; High Arctic; satellite telemetry; movements; migration; population; stock identity

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