K35 new rakes
K35 new rakes

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J27  Tag Site
J27 Tag Site

Photo by Heather McIntyre

K35 new rakes
K35 new rakes

Photo by Ken Balcomb


Encounter Summary: 

No vessels were with the resident whales in the evening, so Ken hastened “Chimo” to Boundary Pass via John’s Pass after leaving the transients in the previous encounter. Given their slow travels all day, it was not likely that the resident whales had made it as far as Turn Point, if indeed they had made it as far as Boundary Pass by the nearing sunset. In the last moments of fading light the whales were spotted in Boundary Pass off Navy Channel, very spread out in small groups. The first group of three consisted of K16, K21, and K35 swimming slowly southwestward, and about one mile northwest of them there were other small groups and individual whales foraging near the southerly entrance to Navy Channel. J27, and J39 were notable individuals among them for follow-up on sat tag healing and fish gear entanglement, respectively.

The low angle forward lighting provided a good look at J27’s healing puncture wound from a sat tag administered 28 December 2014 and lasting until 15 February 2015. The tracking demonstrated what previous public reports and research had indicated: mid-winter distribution for J pod was largely in the Salish Sea and near the west entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was good to obtain this independent and relatively complete verification of Critical Habitat usage. For more information on this tracking see:



J39 was very actively pursuing salmon near Blunden Island, but the light was too low to see whether there were any fish scales in the water to document his success. It does not appear that he is having any problems from his previous entanglement in fishing gear, and he has obviously not given up chasing and eating salmon.

The dorsal fin rake marks on K35 showed up quite well with the low angle forward lighting of sunset. The September/October timeframe is when we see an increased incidence of fresh tooth-raking scars on resident males, and I have often wondered whether it is indicative of a “rut” and/or ritualistic of arrival in the reproductive age cohort. Females tooth rake one another also, and young whales seem to have nothing better to do than try out their teeth on congeners and cohort buddies. It sure would be fun to know what is going on, and the way to do this is by benignly observing. We left the whales as the sun dropped behind the mountains at 1816 hours, arriving at Snug Harbor at official sunset.







Ken Balcomb

Heather MacIntyre

J, K Pods

Navy Channel





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Encounter #87 - Oct 4, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits