Of all the creatures spotted on our wildlife tours this summer, K pod resident killer whales have been the most elusive. They spent the majority of the summer in their wintering grounds in the Pacific Ocean, making us wonder if we were ever going to spot them again! Finally, a few days ago, J pod returned to the Salish Sea and brought K pod swimming along with them.
We headed out of Mosquito pass to follow up on a report of residents milling around False Bay on the southwest side of the island. We were surprised to find that, by the time we left the pass, the leaders were already farther north than Lime Kiln! We traveled a few miles southwards to meet up with Spock, an adult female in the K13 family group, who was leading travel for both J and K pod. We matched her speed and direction for a while as she traveled towards Mosquito Pass, but before long the rest of her family group, including Scoter, an impressive adult male, caught up with her (and us) and started feeding just outside of the pass. Eventually the K14's caught up as well, and continued northwards ahead of Spock and her family. We followed them, including their 13-year-old sprouting male Rainshadow, as they traveled towards Speiden Channel on the north side of San Juan Island until we broke off to go find some harbor seals and bald eagles.
Today we got to see K pod's most recent calf, Ripple, who was born in 2011. This pod, the smallest in the Southern Resident community, is only 19 members strong and hasn't had a new calf in 5 years. This is mostly due to their small size and lack of reproductive-age females. We're hoping once some of our newer females hit puberty we'll see even more K calves being born!
Naturalist Sarah C.
Spock and her son, Comet