Gray whale in no hurry to leave SD Bay

A 30-foot gray whale that wandered into San Diego Bay this week was still hanging around today, seemingly reluctant to end its Southern California stopover and resume its migration schedule.

The slate-colored cetacean, which was first spotted cruising the harbor on Tuesday afternoon, has become a modest tourist attraction, drawing a stream of nature lovers eager to glimpse the hulking sea mammal from the waterfront and aboard vessels.

About 10:30 this morning, the whale’s rounds brought it into the northeastern reaches of the bay, near U.S. Coast Guard San Diego headquarters, said Petty Officer Henry Dunphy, a spokesman for the maritime agency.

As has been the case since its arrival, the creature was showing no signs of stress, according to Dunphy. “It’s pretty much the same status as it’s been the last several days,’'

he said. “We’re just urging boaters to stay at least 100 yards away and give the whale plenty of room to manuever and not get too close to it when they’re out there.’'

By all accounts, the public has been cooperative.

“It seems like all the boaters are keeping a safe distance and not bothering the whale at all,’' Dunphy said.

According to Joe Cordero, a marine biologist with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, the leviathan probably ventured into the bay looking for something to eat. He estimated it is most likely around a year old and hasn’t been on its own very long.

“We pretty much leave the animal alone for as long as it takes,’' Cordero said Wednesday.

“In other cases elsewhere in the past, we’ve learned that herding them away really isn’t a good idea.’'

Trying to chase whales out of a less-than-desirable habitat into the ocean can backfire, causing them stress and weakening their ability to migrate, Cordero added.

Grays spend summers off Alaska, then travel south to the protected lagoons of Baja California, where their calves are born during winter months.

The trip covers about 10,000 to 12,000 miles.

Usually around the end of February, the stragglers mix with some coming north, so it’s hard to say which way the whale in San Diego’s harbor was headed when he left the open ocean, Cordero said.