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Cook Inlet Beluga count happening Saturday

(KCRG)
Published: Sep. 8, 2017 at 5:26 AM AKDT
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Ever wanted to get a glimpse of the famed Cook Inlet beluga whales?

How about helping a group of researchers with their work on the endangered animals?

A brand new, all-day event allowing the public to do just that will happen Saturday, Sept. 9, across Anchorage.

"This is an event to encourage the population of Anchorage to support the endangered population of the Cook Inlet beluga whale," said Verena Gill of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "and to foster partnership, stewardship, awareness of the whale.

"I mean, where else can you live in a big city and be right next to endangered whales?," she said.

From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., you can swing by any of 12 shore-based viewing stations in town along the Turnagain and Knik Arms. Scopes and binoculars, as well as the guidance of professional biologists and other researchers, will be available at each (though attendees are encouraged to bring their own gear, just in case).

Gill said it's important to have events like this because they can help the public in turn assist researchers with counting the animals.

"If we're looking over here, in fact, belugas might be over here," Gill said. "So we're hoping that if we have a bunch of the public here with 12 stations at the same time, same day, every year, they'll be able to help us spot belugas, track them, and see what habitat they're using."

Following the viewing session, there will be a beluga festival of sorts at the Alaska Zoo Gateway Complex. The free, family-friendly event will include display booths, activities and even a real beluga skeleton as well as a food truck. There will also be short educational presentations on the hour for anyone interested.

For more information on the viewing stations and locations, click

. For details on the festival at the Alaska Zoo, head over to

Belugas Count! viewing stations:

Station 1: Kincaid

Station 2: Point Woronzof

Station 3: Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area (Beluga Overlook)

Station 4: Windy Point

Station 5: Bird Point

Station 6: Girdwood (Tidewater Slough)

Station 7: Twentymile River

Station 8: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Station 9: Hope Highway

Station 10: Mouth of Eagle Bay at JBER (Please Note: This is the only station not open to the general public)

Station 11: Port MacKenzie

Station 12: Goose Bay