The killer whales are back!

By Susan Berta and Howard Garrett | Oct 17, 2012
Courtesy of: Howard Garrett The orca Tahlequah (J35) was seen searching for salmon with her family in Elliot Bay on Oct. 8.


After spending most of the summer in the San Juan Islands, our resident orca pods have just begun venturing south into inland waters for the fall and early winter months, traveling down Admiralty Inlet chasing blackmouth and chum salmon runs into lower Puget Sound.

Our first reports of orcas in Puget Sound came in Sept. 30, and on Oct. 1, Orca Network observed members of L pod in Admiralty Inlet as they headed back out west.

And just the morning, Oct. 8, we received word of a large pod of orcas heading south in Admiralty Inlet – likely the Southern Resident Orcas, chasing salmon down into Puget Sound.

We’ll be keeping our eyes out for the two new orca babies born this year, L119, born in May, and J49, born Aug. 6. J49 is the great-great grandson of 101-year old J2 (Granny).

Newborn orcas often arrive in the fall after 17 months gestation, so it’s especially important to look now for awkward little orca babies, usually tinted orange in their first few weeks.

Since the federal listing of the Southern Resident Orcas under the Endangered Species Act, Orca Network has been assisting NOAA Fisheries and the Center for Whale Research in conducting research to track the winter travels of the Southern Residents both in Puget Sound and along the coast.

Through our Whale Sighting Network's toll free number (1-866-ORCANET), whale sightings are collected and shared with researchers, agencies, and the public through our website (, Whale Sighting Email list, and Orca Network Facebook and Twitter pages.

Whale sightings from the public provide critical information about the travels of the whales, and timely reports enable Orca Network to alert researchers who can then obtain photo identification and prey and fecal samples from the whales during their visits into Puget Sound.

You can help by calling in any whale sighting immediately, so research boats can be deployed and land observers can get out to track and photograph the whales while they are in the study area and/or Puget Sound.

Whale reports may be called in to our toll-free number: 1-866-ORCANET, emailed to, or posted on our Orca Network Facebook page:

Please provide us with the species, location, time, direction of travel, approximate number of whales, and if there are any adult males (with large 5-6 foot dorsal fins). Also include any behaviors you may observe (breaching, spy-hops, feeding, etc).

If you are able to obtain photographs, please send those to the email address above.

This time of year offers wonderful opportunities to observe the orcas from the many miles of shoreline on Whidbey Island, the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas, and the inland waters of Puget Sound.

For more than 11 years, Orca Network has encouraged shore-based whale watching, or watching for whales while commuting on Washington State Ferries.

We offer a website, email list and Facebook and Twitter pages of recent whale sightings to increase opportunities for seeing the whales – it always helps to know when they are in the neighborhood!

The Whale Sighting Network and Orca Network website also provide up to date information on the latest research and issues related to orcas and their habitat, as well as information on the new whale watching regulations and Be Whale Wise guidelines for viewing marine mammals.

If you would like to be on our Whale Sighting Network email list to receive whale sighting information to improve your chances of observing whales off our shorelines, sign up on our website:

A map of recent whale sightings and reports as well as archived reports may also be found on our website "Sightings" page, and daily news, events, and sightings are posted on our Facebook page.

Thank you for your help in keeping track of our whale neighbors. We are very fortunate to live in a place where we can look out our windows and see those majestic black fins parting the waters!

Susan Berta and Howard Garrett are co-founders of the Orca Network. Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats.

Projects include the Whale Sighting Network and Education Programs, the Free Lolita Campaign and the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

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