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BC Killer Whale Populations

 

Killer whales of the north east Pacific are not a single, homogenous group.  In fact, in this area, three different assemblages of killer whales exist. While they look very similar each group has distinctly different social behaviours, diet, hunting strategies, and genetics.  They occupy different ecological niches because of their different diets--in scientific terms, they belong to different ecotypes.  The assemblages are referred to as resident, Biggs (transient) and offshore killer whales.  In BC the resident assemblage is made up of the Southern Resident and Northern Resident killer whale populations. These terms were based on observations made in the 70’s and 80’s when they were first recognized as distinct types, and don’t reflect our current knowledge very well.  It’s very possible that they will be replaced with new terms in the next few years.  

The images below illustrate the slight differences in resident, Biggs (transient) and offshore dorsal fins used to distinguish the different assemblages. Click on the image to learn more about the different BC killer whales.