Whale Mugging, Getting Up Close and Personal

A behaviour not a lot of people have had the pleasure of experiencing (from whales that is…). Here in Hervey Bay though, where many whales stop as a rest point on their journey back South from the Great Barrier Reef, we tend to experience this behaviour more than normal.

A mugging whale is also known as a friendly/inquisitive whale. It is an encounter some people will travel the world to see. On the Fraser Coast, the sub-adult whales – the ones that aren’t yet at that breeding maturity age but have moved on from mum – tend to show this behaviour the most. They have nothing better to do but pay some attention to us (but we are okay with that).

There are many theories as to why they do this, but no one knows exactly. Over the 20 years Pete has worked in the Bay with these animals, he believes it is simply because they “have nothing better to do”!

The time of year we tend to experience this behaviour is during the start of the season, through to the month of August (peak mugging time) and sometimes into the beginning of September.  The reason for this is because there is a higher density of sub-adult whales in the bay at that time. Once the sub-adult whales move off South at the beginning of September, we begin to see an influx of mums and calves and sexually mature male and female adult whales. September onwards we tend to see more nursing behaviours (between the mums and calves) and chase pods (where mature males will fight over a female).

You might ask though, do the sub-adult whales continue to show this mugging behaviour elsewhere along the rest of the Eastern Australian Coastline? It isn’t unheard of that they won’t feel the urge to be “friendly” during their journey south, but after they leave Hervey Bay, they have one thing on their mind – getting back home to Antarctica! Basically, their migration journey becomes their priority after they’ve left the calm waters of Hervey Bay.

Hervey Bay is their pit-stop on their migration south where they have had the chance to relax and “chill” out (with some of the boats…). We are very lucky here on the Fraser Coastline to experience this behaviour every year!

Looking through the pictures you can’t help but wonder… Are we out here Whale Watching or are we being watched by whales?