Photo and update from Puget Sound orcas’ thrilling appearance

Jeff Hogan of West Seattle-based Killer Whale Tales, who brought us first word of the big orca group that passed through on Friday, shares that photo of L-pod whales along with an update on his adventures as they headed north:

I got the opportunity to go out on the “fecal follow” boat with our friends from NOAA Fisheries after (watching from West Seattle shores) … We caught up with the 40+ members of L Pod at the Kingston Ferry terminal and stayed with them for nearly three hours as the whales moved northwards. The scientists I was with were trying to collect fecal samples, (yes..poop!) as well as fish scales left over from predation events.

The scat samples will allow the scientists to measure and determine a variety of things, including hormonal levels in the individual whales. These levels can be used to determine many systemic problems in the individual whales, like stress, illness or even something positive like pregnancy in females.

Check out this link to find out more (May 2008 KING5 story).

The prey samples collected will help to narrow down what these animals are eating throughout the year. Right now it looks like their diet is nearly 90% salmon, and mostly Chinook or King in the summer and Chum in the winter. The DNA recovered in the samples can also identify exactly which stream those salmon come from and can help to steer recovery of those specific runs.

By the time the orcas had moved to northern waters, three Seattle TV stations had recorded aerial video; here are links to those 3 clips – KOMO (4), KING (5), KIRO (7). Find out more about the “southern resident” orcas here.

9 Replies to "Photo and update from Puget Sound orcas' thrilling appearance"

  • clark5080 February 22, 2009 (12:47 am)

    Boy that would have been fun with my camera in hand.


  • What The February 22, 2009 (1:35 am)

    The “Fecal Follow” boat? I remember going out salmon fishing as a kid at Westport on the “Piss In Your Face”…whoops, sorry, that was The Apollo!

  • What The February 22, 2009 (1:43 am)

    Wouldn’t boats following a POD be in a sense herding them out of the area?

  • WSB February 22, 2009 (3:44 am)

    This page shows what’s involved:
    Yes, even a closeup of the “samples.”

  • coffeenut February 22, 2009 (8:44 am)

    This is great! Always nice to see Orca’s and Bald Eagles coming back to the Seattle area and growing in numbers.

  • km February 22, 2009 (10:06 am)

    This is absolutely awesome. I can’t believe they can figure out what stream the salmon came from!

  • d February 22, 2009 (10:33 am)

    Long may they run!

    Thanks for the link to the scoop on the fascinating poop WSB!

  • rbj February 22, 2009 (8:17 pm)

    I wonder what whale meat taste like…

  • Philotera February 22, 2009 (9:31 pm)

    Whale meat tastes is more like beef than anything else I’ve eaten. I had it when I was kid. If I hadn’t known it was whale, I would’ve thought it was cow. Extremely tender, or at least the piece I had was.

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