Southern Resident Orca Whales
The southeast shores of Vancouver Island are home to at least 89 orca whales who migrate here every spring. The southern resident orca whales spend six to seven months a year in the protected waters of Haro Strait, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Georgia Strait near theFraser River.
These whales constitute a large extended family comprised of three distinct pods: J, K, and L. Subpods are formed within each of these three pods, all of which center around older females such as grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Male and female offspring remain close to their mothers for life.
As with all orcas worldwide, the southern resident orcas whales communicate with one another using echolocation, a unique form of biological sonar calls that can travel ten or more miles under the ocean.
As of September 2004, J pod contained 22 whales, and was considered the pod most likely to appear all year round in the lower Puget Soundarea near the San Juan Islands. This pod seems to prefer the west side of San Juan Island during mid to late spring. The eldest member of J pod is estimated to be approximately 83 years old, and there is only one mature male, being approximately 52 years old. Among the remaining members, there are thirteen juvenile orcas.
K pod, the smallest of all three pods, has 20 members, with the matriarch being approximately 82 years old. This pod contains one sprouter male and nine juvenile whales.
L pod, the largest pod of the southern resident orcas contains 41 whales and has two mature males, sixteen juvenile whales, and five sprouter males.