This was a difficult summer and year for the southern residents. Chinook salmon abundance was low and the orcas suffered because of it. Samish J14 (1974-2016) passed away in August, and Polaris J28, as well as her calf Dipper J54, still continue their battle to survive in their emaciated conditions (update: Polaris J28 and Dipper J54 both passed away in October). However, there were losses before summer too. In January, J55 was born but passed away soon after, and Tsuchi J31 was seen supporting what was likely a stillborn calf at the surface. In March, the body of an undocumented female southern resident calf was found near Sooke, and then Nigel L95's (1996-2016) body was recovered too. Then in May, Deadhead K27 was seen supporting a deceased premature calf at the surface.
With only two calves that were actually born alive (but passed away soon after), and two born dead, plus the losses of the two adults, the southern resident population went backwards this year. Hopefully Polaris J28 and her son will survive, and there will be no more losses in 2016. Hopefully we will see stronger Chinook salmon runs next year, especially from the Fraser River. If not, hopefully the southern resident orcas find enough Chinook elsewhere. If the four lower Snake River dams were breached, it could give them the boost that they need.
Now that I am at college, orca encounters will likely slow down until next summer. However, when I am back up on the island during breaks, I will likely catch up with orcas again. Thanks so much for following my posts here, and see you and the orcas next summer!
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