Like Salt, Pepper was named in 1976 because in that first year she was seen often with Salt – so they became Salt and Pepper. Thus Pepper was the second humpback to receive a name. Pepper is a female, a mother of nine and as of 2008 she is also a grandmother. Here’s her family tree.
Other similarities between Salt and Pepper is that like Salt often hooks up with Cardhu at some point in the season, Pepper often can be seen with a whale named Nile – another reproducing female. Nile was born to another of our adoptable humpbacks, Mars, in 1987. Unlike Salt and Pepper, we saw Nile as a calf in the year of her birth so we know how old she is and can follow her throughout her life. Nile also has a distinctive dorsal fin, it’s extremely sickled with a white slash at the base on the right side. In this photo Nile is in the front and Pepper is behind her.
Salt and Pepper also have their differences. Pepper is more surface active then Salt, you might even see her breach. And if you do, make sure you check out her jaw line – on the left side you will see jaw scuffing. This wearing away of skin along the jaw line occurs, we believe, when humpback scrape their jaws along the seafloor to force the sandlance into the water column where the humpbacks can eat them. Sandlance are small schooling fish that migrate up and down in the water column, sometimes burrowing into the sandy substrate. Most humpbacks have these jaw scuffing scars on their right side – while Pepper appears ‘left-handed’ with her scuffing on the left side.
In 1996 Pepper gave birth to a calf later named Zenith. While most calves stay with their mothers for only one year, Zenith was with Pepper when they returned in 1997. They stayed together the entire summer that second year, and at the time Pepper was pregnant with her 6th calf, Bishop. Zenith and Pepper parted ways that fall, but this was not the only time Pepper was to be seen with one of her calves in their second year. In 2000 Habenero was born and like all calves spent her first year with her mother, but unlike most juveniles Habenero spent the spring of her second year with Pepper. While Habenero did not spend nearly the amount of time with Pepper in her second year as Zenith did – it was cool to see this rarity occur (even if it was to a lesser extent) twice with Pepper’s calves.
Unfortunately Pepper’s life and family tree have also been marked by human impacts. Remember Zenith who back in 1997 spent her second feeding season with Pepper? Well towards the end of her third summer in 1998 Zenith was mortally wounded by a ship strike. And in June of 2009, Pepper herself was entangled in fishing gear. After becoming entangled we did not see Pepper again until May of this year….yet fortunately when Pepper was resighted she was gear free.
While we see Pepper a lot in the Gulf of Maine, she’s also been seen in the Bay of Fundy. You can follow Pepper on twitter for real-time sightings of Pepper every time we see her. And of course Pepper is adoptable.