• Sunset view of Glacier Bay and the surrounding Fairweather Mountains.

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Blubber Lovers...Year Two

The carcass begins to float away
The remains of the whale carcass begin to float away. Can you see the bear still clinging to the blubbery bounty?
NPS
 
yummy

Yummy

Glamour Shots

Check out the "Blubber Lovers" photogallery!

 

Blubber Lovers Log:

In early September, 2010 the massive carcass floated free of the beach and began floating down the bay. According to observers on hand in the dwindling daylight, there were several brown bears in attendance who seemed reluctant to let this food bonanza float away. One was reportedly onboard the carcass as it floated offshore.

 
wolves and whale carcass

June 2011

The motion sensor camera deployed on 5/19 detected up to eight wolves repeatedly from 5/23 to 6/3.Markings and coloration of individuals identify this as the same pack that fed on the carcass at Scidmore Cut in 2010! Only 1 bear was observed during this time on 5/26, but he was a big one.It will be interesting to see just how long 1 dead whale will continue to feed the Glacier Bay ecosystem.
 
Scavenged Whale Shoulder

Scavenged whale shoulder bone

July-September 2011
Biologists continued site visits to change batteries on the motion-sensor camera throughout the summer.The pack of wolves continued to feed on the carcass throughout the summer as evidenced by repeated photos of wolves (thousands!) from the motion-sensor camera, a heavily worn canine trail along the beach fringe, and wolf hair and teeth marks on the whale flesh and bones. As the flesh of the whale was reduced, there was increasing evidence of them eating the bones (photo below), particularly the round ends of ball joints.Bears also visited the carcass over the summer, but with less frequency than wolves.
 
dragging the last pieces away

Dragging away the last pieces

October 24, 2011
The flesh of the carcass is finally gone, only rib bones and a few scattered vertebrae remain.Several other rib and other bones are found strewn about in the bushes, drug up and chewed on by scavengers. The camera revealed the consumption of the final bits of blubber was performed by a single brown bear who fed in the area from Sept 25th to October 2nd. On October 1st this bear drug the final piece of flesh out of view of the camera. Interestingly, up to two brown bears continued to visit the site on and off along with regular visits of up to five wolves from the same pack, until October 24th.

 
April 24, 2012
Biologists went back the site for the final time to retrieve the camera which had taken photos through January 9th.A large brown bear was chewing on bones on November 6th, and the pack of wolves with glossy thick winter coats (see below) scavenged on the bones as late as November 27th.The final mammal photographed at the site was a vole running across the snow on November 28th. By December 4th snow had pushed the camera so it was facing straight down and no further scavengers were documented.
 
wolves picking off the final morsels
Wolves continued to visit the carcass searching for the last morsels.
 

Did You Know?

lungwort

Lungwort lichens get their name because their appearance is similar to lung tissue. Some lungworts are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen to forms that other lichens and plants can use. The presence of lungwort is an indicator of a rich, unpolluted forest habitat.