J14, a 42-year old female killer whale in J pod, is considered missing. She was last spotted from shore on August 3rd by a Center for Whale Research staff member. The rest of her descendents have been encountered by CWR staff since July 31st but she was not present.
J14, also known as Samish ,was born in 1974, the first year Dr. Mike Bigg, commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, started studying the Southern Resident killer whales. She has three living offspring: daughters J37 and J40 and son J45, she is also grandmother to J37’s calf J49. J14 is the only known daughter of J12 and a possible descendant of J2.
This summer has seen low sightings for the whales who reside around the San Juan Islands, Washington. Researchers aren’t sure why and the pods seem to be dispersing. A post on the Center for Whale Research website says:
“The days of seeing the J16’s and being able to say with confidence, that the rest of J pod is close by or at least in the area, are over. …we have been remarking on the relative absence of a true killer whale superpod in “classic” sense… A classic superpod meaning an occasion when all members of all three pods are all together and socializing. We could not collectively remember the last time we saw that behavior, nor even a day when all the whales were at least in Haro Strait together.”
CWR is hoping to conduct a study with British experts to study killer whale social behaviors and foraging habits using drones. They hope the public will support their work through a crowdfunding campaign launched by the University of Exeter.
While eleven babies have been born since Dec 2014 killer whales are still an extraordinarily vulnerable endangered species. No babies have been born this summer. Researchers believe it’s because they’re hungry and starving due to depleted fish stocks and pollution. The group hopes that use of a drone could help them monitor the whales’ social behaviors and foraging habits and discover how they support each other, share food, intervene during conflict and babysit. Further, female whales live for many years beyond their child bearing years and scientists believe they pass on crucial information to help their families find food.