Frequency of Killer Whale (<i>Orcinus Orca</i>) Attacks and Ship Collisions Based on Scarring on Bowhead Whales (<i>Balaena Mysticetus</i>) of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas Stock


  • John Craighead George
  • L. Michael Philo
  • Katherine Hazard
  • David Withrow
  • Geoffry M. Carroll
  • Robert Suydam



Animal behaviour, Animal mortality, Animal population, Bowhead whales, Environmental impacts, Inuit, Killer whales, Marine transportation, Predation, Ship propellers, Whaling, Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea


Bowhead whales of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock harvested by Alaskan Eskimos were examined for scars from killer whale and ship-collision injuries. We estimated that the frequency of scars from killer whale attacks ranged from 4.1% to 7.9% (depending on our confidence that the whale was properly examined) while about 1% exhibited scars from ship collisions. The frequency of killer whale scars was considerably lower than for bowhead whales of the Davis Strait stock and for other baleen whales where data are available, and was significantly lower (P<0.05) for whales <13 m. Patterns of both types of scars were quite similar to those reported for other cretacean species. Spaces between rake marks were within the range of interdental measurements from four killer whale skulls. The occurrence of attempted killer whale predation and ship strikes inferred from scars has not prevented the BCBS stock from increasing.

Key words: bowhead whale, killer whale, Alaskan Eskimos, whaling, scarring, ship/whale collision, propeller injury