Fall and Winter Movements of Bowhead Whales (<i>Balaena mysticetus</i>) in the Chukchi Sea and Within a Potential Petroleum Development Area


  • Lori T. Quakenbush
  • John J. Citta
  • John C. George
  • Robert J. Small
  • Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen




bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, satellite telemetry, fall movements, Chukchi Sea, migration, habitat use, petroleum development, kernel density


Working with subsistence whale hunters, we tagged 19 mostly immature bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) with satellite-linked transmitters between May 2006 and September 2008 and documented their movements in the Chukchi Sea from late August through December. From Point Barrow, Alaska, most whales moved west through the Chukchi Sea between 71˚ and 74˚ N latitude; nine whales crossed in six to nine days. Three whales returned to Point Barrow for 13 to 33 days, two after traveling 300 km west and one after traveling ~725 km west to Wrangel Island, Russia; two then crossed the Chukchi Sea again while the other was the only whale to travel south along the Alaskan side of the Chukchi Sea. Seven whales spent from one to 21 days near Wrangel Island before moving south to northern Chukotka. Whales spent an average of 59 days following the Chukotka coast southeastward. Kernel density analysis identified Point Barrow, Wrangel Island, and the northern coast of Chukotka as areas of greater use by bowhead whales that might be important for feeding. All whales traveled through a potential petroleum development area at least once. Most whales crossed the development area in less than a week; however, one whale remained there for 30 days.