Roller Skate
Did You Know?
Roller Skate is a tough lady as she survived a traumatic entanglement around her fluke!

About Roller Skate

“Roller Skate” is a female who was first observed as a calf in 2015, making her 6 years old (as of 2021). She, much like Equal, is a young “sub-adult” whale who experienced the trauma of having fishing gear entangled around her fluke. We documented the entanglement in 2019 and Roller Skate’s return to Oregon feeding grounds in 2020 with a very damaged fluke, but we did not see her in 2021. 

Gray whales share their foraging grounds in Oregon nearshore waters with many other users during the summer months, including recreational and commercial fishermen. Whale entanglements in fishing gear have steadily increased in U.S. West Coast waters and we are currently working with the fishermen and ODFW on a research project to better understand the overlap between baleen whales and fishing gear. Roller Skate’s story exemplifies why this research is needed and how harmful and sad whale entanglements in fishing gear can be. On September 6th, 2019, we documented fishing line wrapped around Roller Skate’s fluke. The entanglement site looked very painful, with the line slicing deep into her fluke and the wound appeared fleshy. Although it was extremely unpleasant to witness and undoubtedly caused Roller Skate pain and stress, she demonstrated her tough resilience when we re-sighted her again in 2020 feeding in the same place we last saw her in 2019. The entangled line amputated part of Roller Skate’s fluke and the wound was infested with cyamids (also known as whale lice), which is a common occurrence at injury sites on gray whales. We observed Roller Skate foraging on many days in 2020, but her body condition remained thin, and we could see her diving ability was compromised by the injury. At this point we don’t know Roller Skate’s fate, but we remain hopeful that we will see her again in Oregon waters. Her story reminds us that what we do in the ocean can have dramatic effects on marine life if we are not careful.  

Facts and Figures

How to Identify Roller Skate:

Roller Skate has two large white dots on her right side
Roller Skate has a very subtle dorsal hump which can help distinguish her from other whales with more pointy or prominent dorsal humps
Roller Skate's Health History
This plot shows us that in 2020, Roller Skate’s BAI declines across the three time points that we were able to fly the drone over her. While ups and downs of body condition are not uncommon across the feeding season, this decline in Roller Skate’s BAI could also be linked to reduced foraging success due to her amputated fluke.

We fly drones over whales and then measure how skinny or fat they are from the images we capture. We compare the body condition of whales using an index called the Body Area Index (BAI), which is like the Body Mass Index (BMI) used to compare the body condition of humans. Small BAI values mean the whale is skinnier and larger BAI values indicate the whale is fatter.

Photo Gallery