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Whale whereabouts…       

It’s that time of year again!

The cold, rainy weather tends to keep people off the water, and pair this with the secretive behavior of killer whales during the winter months, means fewer killer whale sightings.


Northern residents:

In early December, members of the G clan and I15 pod were travelling near Critical Point. Mid January, the A42s were still in the Powell River area enjoying feeding off Willingdon Beach. The A42s were spotted several times making their way south past Harwood Island and Texeda Island and then headed north to Hernando Island where they put on a bit of a display [Read more below!].



Southern residents:

Mid-December J-pod spent a few days in the Juan de Fuca Strait and off Sooke. They became a little bit easier to follow the first part of this year thanks to a new study by NOAA [See our In the News Section to learn more]. On January 8, K-pod and L-pod were spotted near Race Rocks heading east, while J-Pod was travelling south through Dodd’s Narrows. On January 5, J-Pod brought the new calf J50 into Puget Sound for possibly her first visit to Seattle. On January 21, were seen J-pod and K-pod travelling together near Sheringham Point close to four humpback whales. By the end of January K-Pod and L-Pod were both seen off Sooke, while J-Pod was off the Western edge of the Juan de Fuca Strait.


Bigg’s (Transients)

Transients have been spotted all over in small numbers recently, but few identified transients have been reported. On January 3, T002B (Pedder) was seen in Harney Channel hunting with the T060’s. T087 was spotted near Davis bay on January 18. The next day, the T86As and T90s were seen in San Juan channel heading south. 

Feburary 2014
In this issue

 Whale Update
 Field Updates
 In the News 




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Field Notes...

Where does J-Pod go in the winter?

This question has been at the root of a scientific study that started four years ago by researchers at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Washington. By using satellite tags, researchers can track the movements of the whales without having to follow them in boats 24/7. This December, a tag was deployed on Blackberry (J27). He is not the first whale to be tagged in this study – Mike (J26) and Onyx (L87) were both tagged in previous years to track the movements of J-Pod. You can follow the movements of Blackberry (J27) and the rest of J-Pod by checking out the project’s blog here.

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A New Calf for J-Pod

A newborn orca in the endangered pod that frequents Puget Sound is an encouraging sign. On December 30, researchers from the Center for Whale Research confirmed that J-Pod is travelling with a new member. J50, the newest member of J-Pod has been seen travelling with the J7 (now often referred to as the J16) matriline. J50 has been travelling close by J16; who is presumed to be the mother at 42 years of age, although there is still some speculation that J16’s daughter, J36, could be the mother of J50. On a subsequent trip, Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research was able to snap a few pictures of the playful calf and confirmed it’s a girl! This is great news for the Southern Residents and fingers crossed she remains a happy healthy calf!

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In the News...

Another Sad Loss for the Southern Residents

On December 4, a female southern resident killer whale washed ashore near Courtenay, BC. The female was identified as Rhapsody (J32), and she was pregnant with a full-term fetus. This is devastating news for the southern residents, whose population dropped to 77 individuals following this loss. J32 was the fourth southern resident to pass away in 2014 alone. The night before a necropsy was performed to determine why the animal died; someone snuck down to the beach and stole several teeth from the dead whale. This not only interfered with the full necropsy, but it is also illegal to possess part of an endangered or threatened animal under the Species at Risk Act. Despite this theft, the necropsy continued and while some results are still pending, the official cause of death was the death of the fetus which led to a fatal infection in the mother. This is sad news for the dwindling population that still faces a number of threats in the wild.

Read More CBC News

Read More Seattle Times

Read More Huffington Post

Read More CTV News


Beach Rubbing Video

At the end of January, some lucky people on Hernando Island got a show they never expected. Four Northern Resident killer whales started rubbing on a beach in Dog Bay – only a few meters away from the people watching on shore. ‘Rubbing’ is a behaviour known of the Northern Residents where they go into very shallow waters on a rocky beach, sink to the bottom and rub their bellies, backs, and even their fins in the smooth stones. We aren’t entirely sure why killer whales rub, but it probably has some kind of social function. These whales are very picky about the beaches they choose to rub on, and we see this at only a handful of beaches. This was an amazing experience for those people on shore and great footage of a behaviour we know very little about.

Check out the great footage of this encounter here

Read More CTV News