killer whales | KNKX

killer whales

Transient whales swim through the Salish Sea near Friday Harbor in March. While sightings of transients are growing, the endangered Southern Resident population is bordering on extinction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

“For as the orca go, so go we.”

Those were words from Gov. Jay Inslee as he signed five bills that aim to help keep endangered Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. All are based on recommendations from the orca recovery task force he convened last year.

A whale watching boat, from a distance, watches one of several transient killer whales during a whale watching trip last month.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Experts and enthusiasts agree, whether on water or on land: it’s difficult to describe the feeling people get in the presence of orcas.

“I wish you could bottle what happens when people see whales,” said Donna Sandstrom, while passing out binoculars to passersby in West Seattle. “The sheer joy and the awe is always moving.”

Southern resident orca whales, seen frolicking in 2008 less than 200 yards from shore near the light house at Lime Kiln Point State Park.   The one breaching is Canuck L-7, in the foreground is Faith L-57. Neither is still living.
Jeanne Hyde

Orca whales have the second-largest brains of all marine mammals. They’re known to be intelligent. And they have a lot to say.

Jeanne Hyde is almost always listening.

This May 2018 photo shows the Kirkeholmen oil tanker anchored outside the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil terminal in Vancouver, Canada, at the end of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
Jeremy Hainsworth / AP file

  

Canada’s energy regulator has issued draft recommendations concerning the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and its impacts on marine life. The expansion would see a dramatic increase in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea and Puget Sound.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals just lost a case in a federal appeals court to relocate Lolita the Orca from her captivity in a Miami-based amusement park.
Wilfredo Lee / AP

One of the last killer whales to be captured as part of Washington's whale trade will remain in captivity following a federal court ruling Tuesday, marking a major blow to a decades-long campaign to relocate Lolita the Orca.

Boats have to stay 200 yards away from the Northwest’s endangered resident killer whales. But what if one of those boaters launches an aerial drone to take better pictures from closer up?

It's not a theoretical question. And the answer is not as clear as law enforcement would like.

The Associated Press

More than a dozen killer whales swimming past West Seattle gave residents a spectacular sight Monday as the sun set.

The Associated Press

Ivory, it’s that beautiful creamy white, sometimes even pinkish tooth that can only be had by killing an elephant. Now, A researcher at the University of Washington is helping to put a dent in the illegal ivory trade in Africa. His name is Sam Wasser and he is the director of the center for conservation biology at the University of Washington.

James Maya / Maya's Westside Charters

Researchers in the San Juan Islands say the survival of older female Orcas, after they go through menopause, helps younger males stay alive longer.

That might not surprise many humans, but scientists well-versed in the behavior of Orca whales say it’s a relatively new conclusion. And, in many species, females don’t live long after the end of their reproductive life.

James Maya / Maya's Westside Charters

James Maya, a ship captain and owner of a whale watching company, took these photos of an orca breaching on Monday off South Beach on San Juan Island.

He said this was the only whale breach that evening and he just happened to have his camera at the ready. These breaches are not uncommon, he added.

“Sometimes they just go crazy,” he said. 

Andrew Reding / Flickr

A boater who was caught by the Coast Guard too close to Puget Sound killer whales won't be penalized, but next  summer violators could be fined thousands of dollars.

Center for Whale Research

BREMERTON, Wash. — A newborn orca calf has been reported off the west side of San Juan Island in the Puget Sound.

The Center for Whale Research reports the new calf was first spotted midday Monday among the adults of J pod, one of three killer whale pods that frequent Puget Sound.

An all-white orca has been spotted by scientists during a research cruise off the eastern coast of Russia, near the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Commander Islands in the North Pacific, reports ABC news. The scientists have named the orca Iceberg.

“It is a breathtakingly beautiful animal,” Eric Hoyt, one of the scientists, told the AFP. “If we can get a full close-up of the eyes and they are pink, it would confirm Iceberg is an albino, but we don’t know much about albinism in orcas.”

Dyanna Lambourn / WDFW

The bruised and bloody carcass of an endangered killer whale washed ashore at Long Beach, Wash., this weekend. An initial necropsy did not pinpoint a cause of death.

This week , federal biologists will cast off on a research cruise from NOAA's new homeport in Newport, Oregon. They hope to crack an enduring mystery about some of the most studied killer whales on earth. Namely, where do the Northwest's resident orca whales go in the winter?

Every winter, the three pods of orca whales that call Northwest waters home just disappear into the wild blue yonder. Research biologist Dawn Noren and colleagues from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center are about to embark on a three-week mission to find them.

Associated Press

Supporters have offered $1 million for her release. Annual demonstrations have demanded her return to the Northwest.

Over the years, celebrities, schoolchildren and even a Washington state governor have campaigned to free Lolita, a killer whale captured from Puget Sound in 1970 and who has performed at Miami Seaquarium for the past four decades.

DeWaine Tollefsrud / Flikr

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Three killer whales have made an unusual trek up the Nushagak River in southwest Alaska.

NOAA Fisheries-Alaska region spokeswoman Julie Speegle says residents have seen killer whales at the mouth of the river, but never this far upriver.

Mark Malleson / Courtesy of orcanetwork.org

The oldest and perhaps most-recognizable of the local killer whales is missing and researchers fear he may have died over the winter.

The orca known to researchers as J-1 was last seen on November 21st near Victoria, B.C. Also known as “Ruffles,” for the wavy edge to his distinctive six-foot-tall dorsal fin, J-1 was believed to be about 60 years old. He was one of the first individual orcas to be identified by researchers in the early 19-70s.

LA Times

We’ve known for a long time that killer whales eat salmon. But new findings suggest that local orcas rely on salmon – specifically, adult Chinook salmon – more than previously thought. So now fisheries managers are having to ask themselves: What happens when endangered whales depend on endangered fish?