By becoming a member of the Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program you will be directly supporting research on wild killer whales. Continuing research will lead to a better understanding of the whales, their place in the ocean ecosystem, and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.




Whale Update....

Northern Residents

This June and July, the northern residents were found mostly in the northern portion of their range, with sightings of the A30s near Prince Rupert, and the A36s near Douglas Channel. Also on the north coast, the R4’s and R17’s were spotted near Langara Lightstation (Northern tip of Haida Gwaii) on June 18th. Members of A pod eventually made their way into the northern portion of Johnstone Strait on July 6th, including members from the A30 matriline, and the two A36 brothers.  The A23s and A25s followed them into the strait about a week later. The G and R clans seem to be staying further up the northern BC coast.  On July 23rd, a large gathering of whales had social time in Queen Charlotte Strait, with the A23s, A25s, A36s and some I31s.  

Springer (A73) and her calf
Photo: DFO

In other exciting news Springer (A73) appeared this year with her first calf!  They were seen on July 4th by DFO research technician Graeme Ellis who confirmed that the calf was indeed Springer’s.   Graeme described Springer and her calf as “healthy and energetic”.  He estimates that the calf is approximately seven feet long and was likely born in the fall of 2012.  


Southern Residents

As we mentioned in the previous newsletter, members of J pod had already begun making their way back into the Salish Sea. Most of the sightings are coming from along the San Juan Islands and some from Puget Sound. The first week of June brought reports of L pod making their way back into Haro Strait. They were greeted by the members of J pod, with a lot of social behaviours such as breaching, spy hopping, tail slapping, and a lot of vocalizations. On July 8th, whale watchers were treated to the first superpod event of the summer, with J, L and K pods in the Victoria area. They hung around the Salish Sea for a couple days and on July 13th headed out west again.   On July 19th K pod and part of L pod came in for a quick tour of the Salish Sea and headed out west again late on July 20th.   There haven’t been any reports of the southern residents since July 20th.


Bigg's (Transients) 

Kwatsi (T20) and Pandora (T21)
Photo: Meghan Moore

Bigg’s whales (transients) sightings have been plentiful on our coast these past months. We have had sightings ranging from the south in Puget Sound, all the way north to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Kwatsi (T20) and Pandora (T21) are by far the most commonly sighted this month. On May 29th, they travelled from the Sechelt Inlet to the waters around Nanaimo, covering all that ground overnight! They spent time near Squamish (June 16th), and Tofino (July 19th). The T124s were seen on June 10th near Telegraph Cove, and then 5 days later, off Valdes Island in the Strait of Georgia. June 14th was a special day here in Stanley Park, as the T86s and the T101s visited Vancouver Harbor and were frolicking in front of our offices here at the Vancouver Aquarium. On July 18th, the T65s and T67s were seen off Hein Bank hunting down a minke whale! are taking over along the coast!  


July 2013
In this issue

 Whale Update
 Program Update
 Field Updates
 In the News 




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Adoption Program Update....

New babies for adoption!

We are pleased to announce that the killer whale babies born in 2011 have just been named and are now available for adoption!  Three calves are joining the adoption program this year.  As we’ve mentioned in the last issue of the Blackfish Sounder and the program updates, last year was a more difficult year for killer whale research.  The whales were travelling in smaller groups and spending more time travelling than usual.  Of the five calves that were born in 2011 to mothers in the adoption program, two of the calves and their entire matriline, the G18 and R7 matrilines, were not encountered by researchers in 2012.  The other two calves will not be available for adoption until we can confirm their survival. 

The new babies available for adoption are: Alder (A99) born in 2011, is the third calf of Clio (A50); Kwatna (A100) born in 2011, is the first calf of Sunny (A70); and Lucy (T2C3) a female born in 2011, is the third calf of Tasu (T2C).  As in previous years, the names of the northern resident and Bigg’s (transients) whales are based on places along the BC coast and were selected by a committee of researcher from a list put together by Killer Whale Adoption Program staff.

Visit the family matrilines in the 'Meet the Whales' section of our website to view the family trees.

Lucy T2C3
Photo: Jared Towers



Field Notes....

The 2013 field season has kicked off!

Another summer has come, and this means another summer on the water for our researchers! A spontaneous visit from Bigg’s killer whales in Vancouver Harbour on June 14th gave Dr. Lance Barrett- Lennard and his team a chance to warm up the research vessel “Skana”. The team will spend the next few months in the field off the Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s remote central coast, studying the distribution and ecology of cetaceans off the coast of British Columbia. The first leg of the trip started on June 27th, as Dr. Lance and his research assistant Caitlin Birdsall sailed along the west coast of Vancouver Island. On their way, they encountered a large number of grey whales, some humpback whales, and a few porpoise groups. They were pleasantly surprised to find a great abundance of sea otters, which have recently rebounded from low abundances throughout the BC coast. Click here to read more about the first and second leg of the research trip, and stay posted for blogs about the next legs of this summer’s research trip.



In the News....

A very rare encounter!

The North Pacific Right Whale seems like a ghost in the waters of British Columbia - a relic of the past, before the whaling era, when it was extremely abundant and part of the ecosystem of this coast.  Since its targeted hunt that started in the mid 1800’s, its numbers have declined, and one could almost say it had disappeared entirely from our waters. The North Pacific Right whale is the most endangered whale species in the world, with only approximately 30 individuals remaining in the Eastern North Pacific region, and only 6 sightings in the last 100 years. But June 9th 2013 turned into a historical day, when DFO scientist James Pilkington spotted one of these rare whales off the west coast of Haida Gwaii. The Coast Guard ship Arrow Post was conducting surveys in the area, when they came upon this whale species that scientists thought they would never be able to see again. Click here to read the story about James’ historical encounter with this very rare North Pacific Right Whale.  

Photo: DFO


Dolphin or Porpoise?

Ever wonder whether what you are sighting is a porpoise or a dolphin? You are definitely not alone. Differentiating between a porpoise and a dolphin is actually the most common ID mistake we will make. It does not help that they seem very similar, but in fact, they are as different as dogs and cats! They belong to two completely different families of cetaceans. Dolphins belong to the Delphinidae family, and porpoises belong to the Phocoenidae family. The most accurate way of telling the two apart, are actually by looking at the differences in the shape of their teeth. But no one wants to get that close, and it’s probably not the easiest/safest way to go about recognizing one from the other. Click here to learn about basic ways to distinguish these two cetaceans in the field, without having to get close and take a look at their sharp teeth. 

Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard