So we’ve been hearing quite a lot about whales this winter around the coastline of Washington. Most recently we have heard a lot about a young killer whale that washed up just north of Long Beach, Washington on the morning of February 11. This whale was identified as Sooke and was a member of the southern resident community of endangered killer whales.
According to the Whale Museums website: ” Sooke was a spunky whale, full of energy. She belonged to a family group of ten whales. Often she would be seen playing with her sibling, Pooka (L-106) and other young whales in the community. She also swam by her mother’s side (Surprise! L-86).”
As many are aware, this is a huge blow for the already endangered southern resident community. Taking a young female whale out of the equation obviously means one less whale to reproduce. However, it seems a lot can be learned from the investigation and research of Sooke’s body. The Cascadia Research page states that they are taking samples of a variety of analyses including genetics, contaminants, bacteriology, virology, food habits, biotoxins and histopathology.
Many are aware of the presence of these beautiful creatures during the summer months, but there is still a lot of opportunity for research during the winter months. Unfortunately this is a difficult task. The winter months make it hard to track the animals, and up until recently the whales were not tagged. This was due to the belief that potential risk of infection at the site of the tag, outweighed the potential useful data that could be gathered. Brain Goodremont of San Juan Island Outfitters notes that it’s interesting that “little is known about the winter range of this newly listed Endangered Species. For example members of J & K pod are just as likely to be spotted in and around the Seattle area as they are in the San Juan Islands and the Columbia River”
Although this particular case with Sooke was a tragedy for the southern resident community, scientists are using it to learn all they can about the animals and particularly their behavior during winter months when they don’t seem, to the public, to be as visible.
San Juan Island Outfitters offer kayak tours of the island during Spring and Summer months on San Juan Island. San Juan Safaris are the islands premiere Whale Watching company. Visiting either of these sites offers interesting articles and news about the whales in this area and surrounding areas as well as the multiple other species found in and around the San Juan Islands. New information and data is always being discovered and both these companies take delight in educating the public on their tours and getting that information out via their websites. Awareness of the killer whales habits can help to protect them in the future.
For more information on the progress of investigations into the killer whale washed up on a beach in Long Beach WA click here: http://www.cascadiaresearch.org/examination_of_dead_killer_whale-12Feb2012.htm.