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Encounter #22 - Mar 26, 2016

Photos taken under Federal Permits




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Ken Balcomb

Bigg's Transient KW

T137, T137A, T137B, T137D

San Juan Channel

48 35.055N/123 01.868W

48 36.734N/123 02.208W

Encounter Summary: 

 “Imagine” was out early in the afternoon with the T137’s travelling from Cattle Pass to San Juan Channel. The whales had been seen earlier from the air by Chris Teren and reported to Ivan on “Western Prince” several miles south of Lopez Island as they were heading toward Cattle Pass. Hours before that there had been a report of about a dozen Transient (Bigg’s) whales in Admiralty Inlet heading north at about eight knots, but it seemed impossible that they could have gone this far. Mark and Hannah Malleson responded to the Admiralty Inlet sighting with Ken’s boat “Mike 1” now stationed in Victoria, BC and it turned out that they were a different group(see 2016 Encounter 20). It was one of those crazy days when it seemed the Bigg’s whales had rotated into the Salish Sea right after J pod rotated out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It does seem that there is a complementary use and distribution of these two ecotypes of killer whales, as Mike Bigg had first observed.
Ken was ready to launch “Shachi”at 1700 from Snug Harbor just as “Imagine” arrived so he invited their naturalist along to take still photographs in case he was occupied taking video if the opportunity permitted. That was fortuitous! The T137’s had not had any discernable predation events for several hours, so it was likely there would be some action in what was left of the day. “Shachi” arrived on scene just as the T137’s had found and were pummeling an adult harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) near Yellow Island. Several boats were in the area, but the whales paid no attention to them as they went about their usual behavior of ramming, fin and tail-slapping, and swirling around the seal for about ten minutes while avoiding being bitten by the seal. Ken took a brief video of the action showing what must have been a very confusing and scary time for the seal; and, then it was over, apparently deep beneath the surface. The whales moved on passing to the east of Yellow Island and heading on a direct course to the west side of Jones Island, where we left them. No other predation events were observed.

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