I have a confession to make – I love whales! Ever since I was young and heard about Greenpeace’s mission to save the whales, I have been obsessed with them.
In turn cheering when I read about the Sea Shepherd putting herself between the whales and the whalers and despairing when that ship was sunk. Paul Watson was my hero, putting his life on the line to save the whales and seals.
When we went to Maui for our honeymoon we came back with a souvenir wooden whale statue, and I’ve since added several to the collection. Real whales are even better though, and I’ve gone on many whale watching trips, taking a group of Junior Volunteers on a boat out of Año Nuevo annually when I was the educator at the Marin Humane Society. Learning about these huge marine mammals and then seeing them during their migration was exciting.
In addition, my husband and I love to go up to Mendocino and try to time it with their migration (March is the prime time – they are on the return trip to Alaska and swim a little closer to the shore with their babies). There have been years when we have seen dozens swim by the headlands, but all I’ve ever seen is the spout and an occasional fluke. A couple of years ago we went on a cruise to Alaska, and the day we went out on a whale watch excursion was by far the highlight of that trip. We actually saw pods of whales doing the bubble-net feeding. If you’ve never seen it by all means Google it and watch a video or two – it is awe-inspiring! And to see it live is just amazing.
What brought this all up now is that we’ve just returned from Maui. We purposely picked February because that’s when the humpbacks are there, giving birth and mating. We went out on two different whale-watching expeditions but even when not on the boat we could see whales from our balcony. They were incredibly active – breaching, fin and fluke slapping the water and doing body rolls. We could see it with our naked eye but the boats, of course, got much closer. It is thrilling to see a 44-ton animal jump completely out of the water and the splash he makes as he goes back down. I actually caught one on my camera – not easy to do because you never know when or where they might surface.
My ultimate goal is to go down to the Baja peninsula where the moms give birth. Some of the videos I’ve seen of that are unreal. It seems because it’s less commercialized and a smaller area that you can see more and the whales sometimes come quite close. I know there are federal laws protecting these animals and I would never want to harass or intrude too much, but that would be a dream come true.
Seeing animals in their native environment can really be inspiring and motivate you to help protect them and their habitat. That is the argument for zoos, but I don’t think it works as well to see an animal in a captive program as it does to see them in the wild. We are lucky to live in an area where wildlife is still around and we are able to go to the coast and see whales and seals. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity. You might see me out there, hoping to catch sight of another whale!
• Love is in the Air Valentine adoption special: From now through Feb. 19, all animals over 4 months old will be available for just $25. Come find your special, forever sweetheart this weekend!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.