May 30, 2021

California Bigg's Killer Whale Makes Appearance in Haro Strait!

Abby | Kestrel | 5/30/2021

Today we had the A/B Team; Abby the naturalist (me!) and Captain Brian. It was 10am and looking like a typical northwestern island day; dew sat in circular mounds atop blades of grass, while deer pranced about the island in the morning fog. We left the harbor in Kestrel, without the slightest bit of indication on where we’d begin our journey. We headed South through San Juan Channel and cut across Cattle Point into the Haro Strait. Finally, a friendly message; orcas.

Turned out they were immediately in our path of travel, although they were teetering on the edge of the Canadian border… When we made our approach, seven orcas appeared, although no one had an ID on them, but they were most certainly Bigg’s killer whales, our resident marine mammal eaters. We stood, awestruck at the scenery of the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker, all visible on the water among some of the most beautiful creatures in all the world. The water was reflective and smooth, wind nonexistent.

As we happened to learn after our morning trip, we encountered something quite special today.

We had the T099 Matriline of four orcas:

  • T099 (1984, Female)
  • T099B (2007, Gender Unknown)
  • T099C (2009, Gender Unknown)
  • T099D (2015, Gender Unknown)

With two older orcas:

  • T134 (<1959, Female)
  • T132 (<1969, Male)

And a California Transient!

  • CA177

To my knowledge, this is the first time this California Bigg’s killer whale has been spotted in these inland waters. So, we had multiple different families and a newbie!

As the orcas drifted back into Canada (I hope they had their passports!) we drove off to the harbor, the morning fog finally lifting, dew evaporating, town buzzing.