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 whereabouts…       

Northern residents:


We have has many reports of sightings and sounds from our Northern Residents throughout September!  Early in September the A23s and the A25s were spotted approaching Eve River. They were then spotted off the coast of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. The A60s and A61s were spotted of off Bauza Islet and were spread across to the bottom of Weynton Passage. They were seen to be foraging, and joined by Pacific White Sided Dolphins. In this same area the A30s and members of different I pods were spotted at various times.

Late in September, The A32s and the A40s spent some time in Blackfish Sound before heading through Weynton Pass and east through Johnston Strait. They had many sightings and reports of their calls being heard in Robson Bight and the surrounding area for multiple days.


Southern residents:


In September, the J Pod was spotted right off of San Juan Island. Blackberry (J27) was easily distinguished and stayed in the area for quite some time. Reports of Rhapsody (J32) and Tahlequa (J35) were also prevalent in the area. Later, the L pod was spotted in this same area. Late in September Lobo (K26) was spotted in Orca Pass with an unnamed whale.




Bigg’s (Transients)


In September, Bigg’s were observed in both the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. Late in September the T18s and T19s were spotted going through Blackney Pass. The T36s were also spotted heading east past Alert Bay. The T002C’s were seen in Haro Straight. T101’s and T102 were observed at Dunsterville Island heading southbound toward Viner Point. At Viner point they were seen actively hunting, then turned into Hoskyn Channel where they spread out for some time. T18’s and T19B were seen heading northwest towards Cape Mudge.


October 2014
In this issue

 Whale Update
 Program Update
 Field Updates
 In the News 




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Adoption Program Update....


Introducing Spirit!


Many people are familiar with the story of Springer (A73), the orphaned whale which was rescued from Puget Sound and rehabilitated back into her pod in 2002 [Read more here]. We are thrilled this year to announce that this remarkable story has evolved, and the now 13-year –old Springer has been spotted with a healthy baby calf! There has been tremendous public support for Springer though her entire journey, including the choosing of a name for her calf. We received many great public suggestions, and with those, the Northern Resident Killer Whale naming committee decided on the name Spirit (A104) (named after Spirit Island on the BC coast near where this calf was first spotted). Keep an eye out for more news of Springer and Spirit in the newest issue of Blackfish Sounder which will be coming soon to your inbox!





For questions or comments about what you see in this newsletter please send an email to [email protected]



Field Notes....

Delving Further with Drones 


This summer has been a very exciting one for killer whale research. In August, senior marine mammal scientist Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard and his team set out with biologists from NOAA on an exciting quest: to conduct the first study of northern resident killer whales using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). This study was aimed to look at the body condition of whales as an indicator of food stress in response to prey availability. This APH-22 marine hexacopter was used to capture images of 77 Northern Resident killer whales and five transient killer whales. The results were astounding and gave a surplus of valuable information regarding killer whale populations.


The images were stunning. They offered a very accurate and unique view that not only gave indications of body condition, but also identified pregnant whales. The method allowed for unique viewing of hunting behaviors and social behaviors among the family groups. One of the greatest perks of this method is that the hexacopter is small and silent, and the whales were not seen to react to it at all, so it offers an unaltered observing experience. Sadly two whales (A37 and I63) were observed from above to be very thin, and were missing by the end of the study.


Overall the information gathered from this unique way of studying the whales is invaluable. Dr. Barrett-Lennard and collaborators are hoping to use this unique method to continue making discoveries regarding our local killer whale populations.


Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium/NOAA



In the News...

Tangled Triumph


A young orca recently came across a very threatening situation when it became tangled in a fisherman’s gill net just outside Port Hardy, BC on August 21st. Upon this occurring, the fisherman quickly radioed a distress call, and a nearby whale watching tour came by to see if they could help. The whale was immediately recognized as I103, a younger member of the I15 matriline. The fisherman worked very quickly in an attempt to cut free the tangled whale while its family members stayed close nearby, not leaving the entangled whale’s side. The situation got very tense when the trapped whale did not surface for 12 minutes, as the average time they hold their breath is approximately 5 minutes. Much to everyone’s immense relief, the whale was freed and reunited with its pod. Researchers, including our own Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard were able to stay nearby and monitor the whale for several hours ensuring that it was in good shape following the incident. This was a very close call and thankfully the young whale seems to have gotten out unscathed! 


 Read More: CBC News