For our new adopters, winter tends to be a quiet time of year for whale sightings. Killer whales are scarcer in the inner protected waters, choosing instead to be more spread out offshore in search of salmon, and there are many less people out on the water spotting the whales. So we don’t have any recent northern resident killer whale sightings to report.
On Dec 28th the Center for Whale Research had a full encounter with J pod in Haro Strait traveling past San Juan Island – the first full encounter of J pod in several months. The whales were spread out and foraging in small groups with the older males Mike (J26) and Blackberry (J27) foraging off by themselves. Onxy (L87) was still travelling with J pod, but like the other two males was off by himself. On Dec 29th and 30th members of K pod, which included Lobo (K26) and Yoda (K36), was seen off West Seattle and then in Saratoga Passage, North Puget Sound. On January 9th the J16s were seen again off San Juan Island. Slick (J16), Scarlet (J50), and Echo (J42) were traveling together with Alki (J36) and Sonic (J52) trailing a bit behind. Mike (J26) was off on his own foraging again.
Biggs whales have been seen (and heard) all along the BC coast including the southern end of Vancouver Island around Victoria and Howe Sound, mid-island around Campbell River, and off the northern end of Vancouver Island around Johnstone Strait. However, even though there were many sightings, individual whales were not identified in most of the encounters. On January 7th the T18 group: Esperanza (T18), Mooya (T19), Galiano (T19B), and Spouter (T19C), were seen traveling in Haro Strait along San Juan Island.
New babies available for adoption!
We are pleased to announce that the southern resident killer whale babies born in 2015 are now available for adoption! We are in the process of naming the northern resident babies and they will be available for adoption soon.
Four youngsters are available for adoption: Scarlet (J50) is the fourth calf of Slick (J16); Nova (J51) is the first calf of Eclipse (J41); Sonic (J52) is the first calf of Alki (J36); and Kiki (J53) is the fourth calf of Princess Angeline (J17).
As in other years, the names of the northern residents are based on places along the BC coast and are selected by a committee of researchers managed by Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program staff. Southern Resident killer whales are named by the Whale Museum on San Juan Island, WA.
Visit the family matrilines in the 'Meet the Whales' section of our website to view the family trees.
Sonic (J52) porposing through the water (bottom photo)
Kiki (J53) following behind her mother (top photo)
photo credit: Lance Barrett-Lennard
2016 Blackfish Sounder
The 2016 annual newsletter of the Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program was shared with adopters in November. This year’s issue focused on family meals for killer whales, using drones to help whales, and killer whales at the tip of Africa. We mailed printed copies of the newsletter again this year. If you did not receive the newsletter, please click here to view the 24th edition online.
In the News...
Saying goodbye to two more southern residents!
It’s tough to share the news of a loss of a whale, but it was even more disheartening to share the news over the holidays. That sadly, is exactly what happened this year when we learned about the passing of two more Southern Resident killer whales, DoubleStuf (J34) and Granny (J2).
Just before Christmas, on Dec 20th the body of a male killer whale was found floating in the waters off Sechelt, BC. Our team at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Research Program went over to help with the necropsy (an autopsy on animals) and the whale was identified as 18-year-old southern resident J34 (also known as DoubleStuf). The initial cause of death from the necropsy was determined to be blunt force trauma, a concerning and confusing finding since he otherwise appeared in good winter condition. It’s another big loss for the Southern Residents.
Then just days into the New Year, the Center for Whale Research released a statement that the beloved and oldest resident killer whale Granny J2 was missing and presumed to have passed away. Granny was the matriarch of J pod and thought to be over 100 years old. She undoubtedly had an important role to play in passing down centuries-old customs and knowledge and guiding her family to finding food. She lived a very long life but will be deeply missed.
DoubleSuf breaching in September 2016.
photo credit: Lance Barrett-Lennard
Almost all animals reproduce until they die, even very long-lived ones like elephants and blue whales, so what makes killer whales different? According to a new study led by Prof. Darren Croft of the University of Exeter in England, resident killer whales are one of only three species (including short-finned pilot whales and humans) who are known to go through menopause – often living for decades after giving birth to their final calf. The study used 43 years of data gathered by whale researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Center for Whale Research to investigate the question.
The study’s authors suggest it’s a conflict between mothers and daughters. Older females enter menopause because their eldest daughters begin having calves, leading to fights over resources – mainly food, as new mothers require about 42% more nutrients to nurse her calf. Since killer whales share their food, the only way to get more is too demand a bigger share of what is caught. Elderly mothers are also under pressure to share food with their adult sons.
There’s no point in an older mother putting time and energy into a new calf that has a higher chance of not surviving. She’ll do better—in terms of her genetic legacy—by not having more calves of her own, and instead helping her older offspring and their calves survive by sharing food, babysitting, and sharing knowledge about where to forage.
Granny (J2) surfacing in Haro Strait in September 2016
Photo credit: Lance Barrett-Lennard
[Read more] Science Magazine
[Read more] Globe and Mail
[Read more] The atlantic