Phillip Elden Discusses Mammoth Mammals of the Ocean

Phillip EldenWhales, dolphins, and porpoises are abundant just off Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline, says Phillip Elden. However, these underwater wonders rarely draw public interest. Here, Elden opens up about some of the largest mammals in the state.

Q: How many grey whales live off the coast of Oregon?

Phillip Elden: Throughout the summer and fall, Oregon boasts a population of around 200 resident grey whales. However, during migrations – winter and spring – more than 18,000 of these massive creatures crowd Oregon’s waterways. Gray whales can grow up to 50 feet long and can weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Whale sightings are reported year-round but peak between Christmas and New Year, with an estimated 50 sightings each day during Whale Watch Week.

Q: What is the difference between a grey whale and a humpback whale?

Phillip Elden: Humpbacks are slightly larger, with an average adult coming in at around 60 feet in length. Numbers remain steady year-round with the exception of summertime, when hoards of humpbacks travel between Alaska and Hawaii for mating season.

Q: How are whitesided dolphins and bottlenose dolphins distinguished from one another?

Phillip Elden: Whitesided dolphins are smaller with white bellies and black backs. The more common bottlenose dolphin can grow up to 13 feet long and are a common site to fishermen. Bottlenose dolphins are extremely intelligent and are even used by the Navy to determine the location of underwater mines and booby traps.

Q: When is the best time to spot a killer whale?

Phillip Elden: Orcas, or killer whales, are actually quite rare but migrate along the coast in April when baby grey whales – a favorite food – are abundant.