J17 in the Admiralty Inlet on April 7, 2019. (Ken Balcomb/Center for Whale Research)

J17 in the Admiralty Inlet on April 7, 2019. (Ken Balcomb/Center for Whale Research)

A southern resident killer whale whose very survival was in doubt just a few months ago appears to be in better health.

The Center for Whale Research reports that J17 now shows little sign of what is called a “peanut head” condition. The condition causes areas that should be full and round around the head to be sunken and concave due to the extreme loss of fat.

A sighting at the end of December aised fears the 42-year old matriarch was starving to death. But J17 was spotted swimming with her pod in the northern Haro Strait in March and had shown some improvement.

On April 7, researchers with the Center for Whale Research reported seeing her again with J pod in the Admiralty Inlet, a strait connecting the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Puget Sound.

J pod in Admiralty Inlet. (Ken Balcomb/Center for Whale Research)

J pod in Admiralty Inlet. (Ken Balcomb/Center for Whale Research)

“J17 has improved and showed little sign of the “peanut-head” condition that had us very worried during an encounter with her on New Year’s Eve,” researcher Ken Balcomb wrote.

On April 8, J pod was seen heading up Haro Strait, passing the Lime Kiln lighthouse on San Juan Island, as they continue to forage in the Salish Sea.

“Judging by the time they spend in these inland marine waters, this habitat is a more important feeding area to them than it is to K or L pods that now rarely venture into the region,” the center said.

CHEK News