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Killer whales face difficult times too

October 27, 2008 |  3:50 pm

Orcas21

Times are hard for just about everyone -- including orcas that can't find enough food.

A disturbing story from the Associated Press pertains to Southern Resident orcas, or killer whales, from the Puget Sound area.

It cited the prolonged absence and presumed death of seven Southern Resident killer whales and quoted Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island as labeling the situation "a disaster."

Balcomb added: "The population drop is worse than the stock market," and that's deadly serious.

The Southern Resident pod of orcas was listed as endangered in 2005. There are now only 83 live animals, and the recent drop probably is related to a precipitous decline in king salmon where the mammals feed.

That helps explain why some of the orcas began to appear south of their normal range off the Pacific Northwest.

The photo below was taken last January by researcher Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whalewatch off Monterey. That was one of a handful of sightings off California.

Among the missing is K7, venerable matriarch of K Pod. She was believed to have been born in 1910, so age clearly was an issue for her as well. Also missing since last December's count are two females and their calves.

With luck, maybe these mammals will resurface and the overall population will rebound. And the same thing goes for the stock market.

--Pete Thomas

Orcas11

Top photo: Southern Resident killer whales K20 and K38 are shown off the San Juan Islands in 2006. Credit : Center for Whale Research
Bottom photo: Numerous Southern Residents frolic off Monterey last January. Credit: Nancy Black

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