Scarlett
Did You Know?
Scarlett is perhaps the most iconic and well-known gray whale along our coast!

About Scarlett

“Scarlett” (A.K.A. “Scarback”, but we think this name is too ugly for such an amazing whale) is probably the most famous gray whale along our coast. She is easily recognizable by the large scar on the right side of her back, which also spreads to her left side, just before the first dorsal knob. No one knows for sure how Scarlett gained this wound (theories exist about failed harpoon efforts in the Russian Arctic and vessel strikes), but one thing is for sure: Scarlett is a resilient whale! She has been observed along the Pacific NW coast since 1996, where she is frequently seen feeding in kelp beds and reef areas between June and October in most years. Scarlett also has a unique fluke shape with a bow-shaped trailing edge and upward curved tips, which almost make her fluke look like a heart.

Scarlett has given birth to at least 3 calves (perhaps more have gone unreported?). She has brought each new calf back to our coast to teach them how to feed and survive. Since 2016 we have used drones to measure how Scarlett’s body condition changed as she cycled through life history stages of pregnancy, lactation, post-weaning, and resting (between reproductive periods). This research shows dramatic changes in how skinny or fat Scarlett became based on her needs: very rotund when pregnant to support the gestation of her calf; very skinny when lactating because she was giving most of her energy to make a chubby baby; and then a dramatic increase in size after she weaned her calf as she gained energy stores to recover and do it all over again. What an amazing whale!

Facts and Figures

How to Identify Scarlett:

The large scar on Scarlett's dorsal ridge is unmistakable
Scarlett's fluke is unique, both in shape and pigmentation, making it easy to recognize
Scarlett's Health History
We have been able to fly our drones over Scarlett a lot, which means we have a really fascinating history of her body condition. Of particular note in this plot, is how fat Scarlett is in 2019 when she was pregnant with a calf. In fact, Scarlett’s BAI in September 2019 is one of the highest BAI’s we have observed over the course of our study so far (2015-2021). The following year (2020), Scarlett is much skinnier due to the fact that she successfully gave birth to her calf and was in the process of nursing, which is very energetically costly to mothers.

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.