Killer whales return to Salish Sea — with new baby

Killer whales of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound returned to the San Juan Islands with a newborn calf yesterday, as I described in a story for tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.

The newborn orca, K-44, was photographed with his mother in Haro Strait in the San Juan Islands.
Photo: Center for Whale Research

While J pod and portions of K and L pods have been seen in inland waters lately, the major portion of K and L pods have not been around for weeks.

I was ready in early June to write about their return, because that is often when they arrive in Washington state to spend much of the summer. On Tuesday of this week, when L pod was reported off the West Coast of Vancouver Island, I began checking with marine mammal and salmon experts to find out what might be keeping the orcas away.

I was getting ready to write something about the missing orcas and their search for chinook salmon when they suddenly showed up with the new baby. I will save some ideas about the orca-salmon connection until I can put my thoughts into a coherent form. For now, it’s good to celebrate the arrival of the newborn with no apparent deaths among the orcas seen so far.

Of course, nobody knows how long they will stay or where they will travel over the next few months before heading into Central and South Puget Sound in the fall.

The new baby, designated K-44, is one the youngest calves ever identified by gender. (He’s a boy.) Frequently, months or even years will go by before researchers get a good look or photograph of their undersides. Check out diagram at Center for Whale Research (click on “Questions & Answers”) to see how you can tell males from females.

Websites worth watching:

Orca Network’s sightings page (with signup for e-mails)

Salish Sea Hydrophone Network (with links to past and present underwater sounds)

Whale of a Purpose

Center for Whale Research

It's a boy! / Photo: Center for Whale Research

3 thoughts on “Killer whales return to Salish Sea — with new baby

  1. What is the Salish Sea? I am unfamiliar with that designation. I have boated a lot in the San Juan’s and the southern Puget Sound and don’t recall a body of water called the Salish Sea.

  2. What great news to have another orca join the pod. But, even better news that mom and baby ‘boy’ are doing well. GREAT photos of both. Thanks Center for Whale Research.

  3. Jeff,

    The Salish Sea is the inland waterway that includes the Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

    “Salish Sea” became an official name in 2009, when it was adopted by the Washington State Board on Geographic Names, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the Geographic Names Board of Canada. See Water Ways from Oct. 31, 2009.

    I found it interesting that the American Name Society declared “Salish Sea” the “Name of the Year” for 2009. That and a few of my thoughts are presented in Water Ways Jan. 13, 2010.

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