The killer whale has many cultures, involving feeding on many different fish and mammalian prey. Each population has adapted to the cold waters that suit this largest of the dolphin family best, eating the local produce almost like a human culture. The conservation of all these populations is proving near-impossible. As they disappear in Canada and the Hebrides, we need to look at many causes of their decline. Pollution and shipping interfere with breeding and, in the relatively unpolluted Puget Sound, on the east coast of the Pacific, some groups are reducing in numbers.
The “Northern” population of 250 live in Alaska and northern British Columbia and suffer less from human influence. The southerners around the Puget Sound number 3 pods (J, K and L), feed a lot on chinook salmon and are really an extended family. There are less than 100 of them at the moment, so we would welcome seeing them maintain that century in their population! For 40 years now intensive researches worldwide have revealed more of these matriarchal cultures and these studies are truly fascinating.
A Puget Sound calf recently died in the uterus of an infection that also killed its mother, but the latest orca news this week from near Vancouver Island, is of another baby. It will be known as J-50, while its mother is J16, who is 43 years old. Mortality among the yearlings is known to be 35-45% however, so we all have to consider J16’s good record, although she lost her last calf in 2011. J50 and its mother can be viewed on Orca Network’s Fb page, along with many great updates on these threatened and important 3 pods
For the birth, the whole pod had entered a narrow sheltered passage between 2 islands in the San Juan group. This must have been for the actual birth as whales are unknown from that small area. With 78 orcas in this Southern orca population, the endangered species are building up their numbers slightly at least. Females mature around 14 and males at 18. With a couple of years passing since a successful birth and its survival, the Puget Sound could be empty of orcas if we don’t help. The pregnant animal we mentioned before, J32, died in early December, aged 19.
There is so much to study, especially with the recent research on habits and cultures. This is our killer whale encyclopaedia entry, which also leads you to Inuit links.