Scientists have collected genetic material from the beluga whale that was first sighted in Puget Sound in early October. It indicates that the whale is likely from a large population of beluga whales in the Beaufort Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.
The whale appears to have traveled thousands of miles south around Alaska through the Bering Sea and south to Puget Sound. It was last sighted on October 20 near Tacoma. The whale does not appear to be from the small and endangered Cook Inlet beluga population near Anchorage, Alaska.
The genetic analysis involved sequencing DNA extracted from a water sample collected near the beluga whale in Puget Sound earlier this month. This material is known as environmental DNA, or eDNA, because it comes from skin, fecal, or other cellular debris found in the environment near the animal.