At least 72 Bigg’s killer whales spotted, breaking single-day record

At least 72 Bigg's killer whales spotted, breaking single-day record
Ellie Sawyer, Maya’s Legacy, Pacific Whale Watch Association
Brothers T101A “Rush” and T101B “Lagoon” were two of the 72 Bigg's killer whales spotted on March 31.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association recorded sightings of at least 72 Bigg’s killer whales off the coast of B.C. and Washington state, which broke a single-day record.

Mark Malleson, researcher for the Center for Whale Research, said the previous record was around 60.

“There have been days in the last decade with around 50 different Bigg’s killer whales reported, maybe 60,” said Malleson in a statement. “But Thursday was certainly the most so far.”

On March 31, there were 10 distinct groups reported from Campbell River to Hood Canal in Washington’s Puget Sound.

The largest group, spotted by Pacific Whale Watch Association operators near the northern San Juan Islands, had 18 orcas.

“We were watching a group of four whales when, out of nowhere, 14 more materialized,” says naturalist Sam Murphy of Island Adventures Whale Watching in Anacortes in a statement. “It was magical.”

Bigg’s killer whales eat marine mammals and their population numbers are thriving due to the abundance of seals and sea lions in the region.

“This was an awesome community effort with watchers from Campbell River to Puget Sound contributing sightings and photos,” Monika Wieland Shields, director of Orca Behavior Institute on San Juan Island said in a statement. “We wonder how long this increase in Bigg’s killer whales will continue, but they keep setting records. More than 70 in the region in one day is astounding.”

One of the most recognizable individuals spotted Thursday was T63 “Chainsaw”, an adult male killer whale born in 1978. Known for his jagged dorsal fin, he and his mom, T65 “Whidbey” were seen near the U.S.-Canada border in Haro Strait.

Photo of T63, “Chainsaw”, by Valerie Messier, Prince of Whales, Pacific Whale Watch Association

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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