'Whiskie the Whale Spotter' watches sea lions and humpback whales congregate in central California's Monterey Bay on Nov. 5. (Image: Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies/YouTube screen shot)
Six years ago, Whiskie was a stray puppy at an animal shelter in rural Hastings, Mich. Today, she's a renowned whale-spotting expert who lives in central California, where she regularly joins research expeditions in Monterey Bay. According to her owner, she can detect the presence of nearby whales and dolphins with uncanny accuracy.
"Her favorite spot is to sit in one of the captain's chairs," Marine Life Studies founder Peggy Stap writes in a blog post. "If she gets out of the chair and runs to the bow of the boat, we stop the boat because 95% of the time there is a whale or dolphin in the area."
Whiskie's skills haven't been needed lately, however, thanks to an abundance of anchovies in Monterey Bay that's been drawing hordes of marine mammals to the area for weeks. And when the feast recently erupted into a feeding frenzy, with sea lions and humpback whales swarming around the boat, Whiskie was beside herself with excitement.
Check out her noisy reaction in the video below, which was filmed Nov. 5 by Capt. Tiffany Thomas during one of Marine Life Studies' daily voyages into Monterey Bay:
It's difficult to know the exact emotions behind Whiskie's barks and whines, but Stap tells Pete Thomas Outdoors that her canine colleague may be inspired by humans' exuberance at the sight of wild marine mammals. "She was never trained to spot whales," Stap explains. "She is a rescue dog from Michigan, and I think she feeds off our excitement when we observe whales and dolphins. She is a very smart girl."
The anchovy boom has been drawing swarms of sea lions and humpbacks near shore since September, Stap says, and their feeding frenzies can sometimes be seen from more than a mile away. "There are as many as 50 to 100 humpbacks in the bay in a given day, along with thousands of sea lions," Stap tells Pete Thomas Outdoors. "[Tuesday] was the most sea lions grouped together that we had observed. It appeared as if you could walk across them they were so tightly bunched. It was an amazing sight to behold."
Although the anchovy feast kept them distracted this time, Stap says Whiskie's interest in marine mammals often seems to be mutual.
"I think the dolphins and whales are interested in her," Stap writes on the Marine Life Studies website. "One of her favorites is the northern right whale dolphin. Sometimes northern right whale dolphins travel with Risso's dolphins. When I see a large group of Risso's, I know there are northern right whale dolphins in the area before we even spot them, just by how Whiskie is acting. The sounds they make have a higher squeaky pitch and I'm pretty sure Whiskie hears that. Plus, they love to bow-ride and Whiskie loves to watch them. It's amazing to watch the dolphins turn on their side and look up at Whiskie."
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