J39 breach
J39 breach

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

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K26 and J34
K26 and J34

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

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J16 and J50
J16 and J50

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

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J39 breach
J39 breach

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

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Encounter Summary: 

After receiving several reports of a good number of whales down the west side of San Juan Island, Dave and Melisa headed out in Orca around 1230 to follow up on reports that J39 was seen with fishing gear in his mouth a couple days before.

Orca got on scene at 1314 about 3-4 miles southwest of Eagle Point. The whales were spread out and milling in groups and individuals. The first whales we saw were K13, K26, and K35 together. K26 soon split off but K13 and K35 rolled around together for several minutes. There were two other large groups and a few smaller ones nearby where all the whales seemed to be socializing with one another and not really going anywhere. Membership in the various groups changed as some whales moved from group to group or larger groups split up some. By about 1410, the whales were pointed north again and milling in the general direction of Pile Point.

We checked out the larger social groups first to see if J39 was in one of them. We did not find him in the there although we did find his sister J31 in a mixed group of J's and K's. We then began looking for the more peripheral whales to see if we could find J39 offshore with the more spread out whales. We found K12 and K43 soon after but then saw a couple of males plus a few other spread out whales offshore so we went out there. We found K21 traveling north and J39 was traveling near him briefly. J27 was paralleling their course further offshore. We spent a little over the next hour trying to follow J39 as he foraged a couple miles off False Bay, heading inshore for a few minutes before heading back offshore and the back and forth was making it hard to stay with him. J39 breached once early in the encounter while he was still near K21 and this gave us a good look to see if he had anything hanging out of his mouth. The flasher that had been in his mouth was gone and we saw no signs of any other fishing gear in his mouth or wrapped around any part of him. He looked and seemed to be acting normal. While we were trying to keep an eye on J39, we got briefly sidetracked by J16, J42, and J50 as they traveled slowly north off False Bay. We then saw J26 and K37 goofing around together before going back to J39 for another half hour of him foraging back and forth.

We left J39 still foraging at 1604, and went inshore to a large group of whales milling right off Pile Point. This was the J14's, J19's, J28's, J35's, J36's, K22's, J44 and K16 and they were socializing in a tight group while K25 and K35 were milling just a little offshore of them. The young whales in the large group were very active and playful. J40 was shoving around J51 and we were able get belly shots that confirm that J51 is a male. Most of the large group continued to mill and socialize in the area between Pile Point and Hannah Heights although J44, J47, and J49 broke off to join K33 and K35 in an all male play group that moved a little north of the larger socializing group.

By about 1700, some of the whales that had made it closer to Lime Kiln, including J19, J31, and K21 began filing back down the west side of SJI toward Hannah Heights and started mingling with our large milling group still south of there. There was more rolling and socializing and, at one point, at least seven whales logged at the surface facing several different directions.

We left the inshore socializing whales at about 1710 and headed back offshore. We found K12 and K43 again, heading slowly north. Not far away from them was a group that included J26, J39, K13, and K37. This foursome was active but J39 and K37 soon moved off to horse around with one another. From 1740 to 1807, we followed J39 and K37 as they rolled around with one another with quite a bit of splashing as they headed north. This was a perfect pair of whales to get what we wanted out of J39. Since he was rolling around and often doing tail lobs and other behaviors, we were able to get another good look at him. Again, we saw no signs of any fishing gear attached to him and he was acting normally. We will be continuing to monitor him in the coming weeks to see if there is any change in his health status. J39 and K37 split up around 1810 and we moved north to find whales that had passed Lime Kiln.

Just south of Bellevue Point near the rocks, we found the K13's plus K36 heading slowly north. About a quarter mile behind them, were all five of the K12's who were moving north in a tight group and traveling at a faster pace then the K13's. There was another large group further north of the K13's and K12's in Andrews Bay so we headed up there to see who was in that group. We let this group file by us a little north of CWR and it was the J22's, J37's, and the rest of the K14's besides K36. The K12's had also caught up by this point and were also nearby.

We left the whales heading north spread out in groups off the south end of Mitchell Bay at 1855. At 1953, after we had got back to CWR and were still downloading our photos, a large group consisting of the J11's, J17's, J16's, J22's, K16's, and K21 went around the outside of the reef in front of CWR heading north.







Dave Ellifrit

Melisa Pinnow

J, K, and L87

J2, J14, J16, J17, J19, J22, J26, J27, J28, J31, J34, J35, J36, J37, J38, J39, J40, J41, J42, J44, J45, J46, J47, J49, J50, J51, and J52

K12, K13, K14, K16, K20, K21, K22, K25, K26, K27, K33, K34, K35, K36, K37, K38, K42, K43, and K44

and L87

Haro Strait

48 25.44/123 03.78

48 33.77/123 11.07



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Encounter #64 - Aug 6, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits