orcas

Bill Radke sits down with Orca Network co-founder and activist Howard Garrett to talk about the newest developments in the controversy over Lolita the Orca. The whale has been in captivity for over 40 years, and recently unsealed documents reveal many alarming details about her conditions. 

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.

A new environmental nonprofit is scouting the Pacific Northwest coast for a suitable cove or bay to establish a refuge for retired captive orca and beluga whales.

The board and staff of the new outfit, called The Whale Sanctuary Project, includes a number of people who helped return Keiko, the star of the Free Willy movie, to Icelandic waters from Newport, Oregon.

An orca pod travels past the Seattle skyline. A new study shows that pods are most likely led by older females.
Courtesy of NOAA/Candice Emmons

Bill Radke speaks with Joe Gaydos, chief scientist for the University of California Davis Wildlife on Orcas Island, about the creation of individual health care records for all the resident orcas in Puget Sound. 

Springer, the one-ton baby orca displaced from her pod, chased Washington ferries until she was caught and reconnected with her family.
AP Photo/Cheryl Hatch

SeaWorld says it will end its killer whale breeding program and will stop making the mammals perform tricks for stadium crowds. It’s a historic about-face from the days when SeaWorld hired people to capture wild killer whales in Puget Sound. 

Photo by Frank Shaw, and used with permission by Paul Dorpat.

In 1965, a local businessman towed a giant orca into Elliott Bay. Namu the Killer Whale became a huge hit with the public, inspiring local musicians and even a movie.

When the new baby orca L120 was spotted in just off of San Juan Island in Puget Sound, Ken Balcomb passed out cigars to celebrate.

But the long-time killer whale researcher knew that the southern resident orca pods needed a lot more than one new member. That was back in September 2014. Their numbers were down to 78, the smallest since 1985. L120 was the first baby orca born in two years.

Baby orca J54 swims with its mom, J28, in the waters off San Juan Island this month.
Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

When officials counted the orcas in Puget Sound earlier this year, they noted that several of them appeared to be pregnant.

They were right. Yet another baby orca has been spotted – the eighth born to the pods that make up the southern resident orcas.

L123 is seen in Haro Strait. Capt. Mark Malleson of Prince of Whales Whale Watching took the photo for the Center for Whale Research.
Courtesy Mark Malleson/Pacific Whale Watch Association

Welcome, L123: You're the newest baby born to the endangered orcas in the Salish Sea.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association released photos of you and your mother, L103, also known as Lapis, swimming in Haro Strait on Saturday.

NOAA scientist Jeff Hogan uses a long pole to attach a 'D-tag' to an orca near Rosario Strait in the San Juan Islands in 2012. One side of the tag is lined with octopus-looking suction cups, the other bears a tiny antenna.
Ashley Ahearn, KUOW/EarthFix (all photos collected under NMFS ESA Scientific Research Permit #16163)

Boat speed is a big problem for Puget Sound’s endangered killer whales, according to new research published Wednesday.

The orcas commonly spotted in the waters of Puget Sound during the summer lead a much more mysterious life in the winter time.

But a team of researchers has just returned from a three-week cruise following orcas along the coast of the Northwest and British Columbia. And they brought back some clues to help demystify the orcas' winter activities.

SEATTLE-- Orca experts with the Center for Whale Research spotted a very young calf cruising along in its mama's slip stream near Pender Island in British Columbia on Tuesday.

Ken Balcomb, the head of the Center for Whale Research, believes the calf was no more than a day or two old when he spotted it, and he couldn't say what sex it is. The baby pictures, however, are priceless. Check out a full slide show at the Center for Whale Research.

Scientists determined this weekend that the dead orca that washed up on Vancouver Island last Thursday was pregnant when she died.

The young female was a member of the endangered southern resident killer whale families of Puget Sound.

Experts who conducted the necropsy on the whale said her fetus was between 5 and 6 feet long - about a half the length of the mother. The fetus was already decomposing, suggesting to scientists that the mother was attempting to expel her stillborn calf when she died.

Baby Orca Missing In Puget Sound And Presumed Dead

Oct 22, 2014

Orca enthusiasts rejoiced when a newborn calf was spotted 7 weeks ago.

But as of Tuesday morning, the endangered killer whale calf has not been seen.

L120 was the first calf born in the past 2 years. The calf's mother was spotted three times since Friday. Her baby was nowhere to be seen.

Orca experts believe the calf is dead, though no carcass has been found and it's unclear how it died.

EarthFix Conversation: Puget Sound Whales For Sale

Jul 22, 2014

The resident killer whales of Puget Sound are an endangered species. There are about 80 of them left.

But there was a time, not too long ago, when people were catching these whales and selling them into captivity.

Sandra Pollard has documented the history of orca capture in Puget Sound in a new book: Puget Sound Whales For Sale: The Fight To End Orca Hunting.

She spoke with EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn about this dark period in orca history.

Ashley Ahearn: Let’s go back in time here a little bit, why did people start catching orcas?

Pages