In the summer of 1998, I started a photo-identification study of the long-finned pilot whales which use the waters of northern Cape Breton. Whale-watchers of the area had known for at least 15 years that pilot whales could be reliably found in and around St. Lawrence Bay from late June into October and November. It was also suspected that some of the same individual whales returned to the same area year after year. Photos, general behavioural notes and sound recordings have been taken by my field assistants and me aboard Captain Cox's Whale Watch through July and August 1998, 1999 and 2000. Although the photo catalogue is still being established, it is clear that there are indeed individuals which have returned to the bay each of the study years, and have been sighted throughout with other particular individuals. In general, different individual pilot whales are sighted from one day to the next. In 1998, only 14% of the identified (with notches and/or scrapes) individuals were resighted on non-consecutive days through the two-month study period. As predicted by genetic studies of hunted pilot whale groups in other locations, it appears that there are at least some somewhat stable, cohesive units of pilot whales. Stronger inferences should be possible in the coming months as I continue to analyse the sightings records.
Study Site highlighted in red: 47.2°N 60.3°W
These four individuals have been sighted together consistently all three summers of the study:
ID59: Dent ID60: Jigsaw
ID61: Fang ID80: Valleys
Research Platform: Northern Gannet of Captain Cox's Whale Watch
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