Polar Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 8, pp 1171–1183 | Cite as

Population-specific home ranges and migration timing of Pacific Arctic beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)

  • Donna D. W. Hauser
  • Kristin L. Laidre
  • Robert S. Suydam
  • Pierre R. Richard
Original Paper


Two populations of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), the Eastern Beaufort Sea (BS) and Eastern Chukchi Sea (ECS), make extensive seasonal migrations into the Pacific Arctic. However, the extent to which these populations overlap in time and space is not known. We quantified distribution and migration patterns for BS and ECS belugas using daily locations from whales tracked with satellite-linked transmitters. Home ranges and core areas in summer (July and August) and in each month (July–November), daily displacement, dispersal from core areas, and autumn migration timing were estimated. Distinct summer and fall distribution patterns and staggered autumn migration timing were identified for BS and ECS whales. Summer home ranges for each population had less than 10 % overlap. Monthly home ranges were also relatively distinct between populations except in September (up to 88 % home range overlap). A distinct east–west shift in focal area use occurred in September that persisted into October, with the two populations essentially switching longitudinal positions. Highest daily displacements occurred during the migratory period in September for BS whales and October for ECS whales, further indicating westward fall migration was offset between populations. Sexual segregation of males and females within a population also varied monthly. Autumn migration timing as well as differences in spatial and temporal segregation between BS and ECS beluga populations may be a result of maternally driven philopatry and population-specific adaptations to dynamically available resources. Our results contribute to the management of these populations by identifying seasonal area use and differences in migration patterns.


Arctic Spatial and temporal variability Habitat use Home range Seasonal migration Sexual segregation Beaufort Sea Chukchi Sea 



A number of individuals have been instrumental in the field efforts and data processing associated with tagging two populations of belugas over several years. For the BS data, we thank J. Orr, who was the lead for the field work, and A. Martin and B. Leblanc for data processing. We are also grateful to the Inuvialuit Hunter and Trapper Corporations of Inuvik, Aklavik, and Tuktoyaktuk, as well as the Polar Continental Shelf Project for their support and assistance. Resources were provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, Environmental Studies Revolving Fund, US Minerals Management Service, and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory of the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The village of Point Lay and many people facilitated ECS tagging and data processing, including L. Lowry, K. Frost, G. O’Corry-Crowe, D. Pikok, R. Small, J. Tazruk, J. Orr, A. Ashby, V. Dollarhide, L. Ferreira, R. Hobbs, R. Hoover, T. Nukapigak, L. Pierce, T. Romano, M. Sparck, H. Smith, S. Speckman, D. Susook, C. Aniskette, N. Hank, L. Hansen, L. Hoberecht, L. Quakenbush, T. Robeck, A. Simon, G. and K. VanBlaricom, B. and M. Tracey, J. Rexford, J. Taylor, J. Edwards, D. Ramey, B. Achootchook, and J. Citta. Resources were provided by the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, North Slope Borough of Alaska, NMFS, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Minerals Management Service, and Village of Point Lay. D.D.W. Hauser was supported by the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (University of Washington Program on Ocean Change). Thoughtful discussion and suggestions were greatly appreciated from S. Moore, C. Monnahan, E. Gurarie, K. Frost, L. Quakenbush, and J. Citta. This manuscript was also considerably improved by J. Higdon and five anonymous reviewers. Tagging was conducted under Marine Mammal Protection Act permits issued to NMFS (Nos. 782-1438 and 782-1719) for ECS whales, and all required permits for Canadian work were obtained through DFO.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna D. W. Hauser
    • 1
  • Kristin L. Laidre
    • 1
    • 2
  • Robert S. Suydam
    • 3
  • Pierre R. Richard
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Polar Science Center, Applied Physics LaboratoryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife ManagementBarrowUSA
  4. 4.Freshwater InstituteFisheries and Ocean CanadaWinnipegCanada

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