J16 and calf J50, courtesy NOAA
J51 and mother J19, courtesy NOAA
Around the San Juan Islands, lower Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Southern Canadian Gulf Islands, J pod is the most likely to be in the waters year-round. Historically, J pod has been known to frequent the west side of San Juan Island, in Haro Strait, during the summer months. In the last few years these sightings have become less consistent.
As of November 2018, J pod consisted of 23 orca whales. This pod is well known for J2/Granny who died in 2016, but was thought to be around 106 years old, making her the oldest known Southern Resident Killer Whale. J1/Ruffles died in 2010 at the age of 59, and was thought to be the oldest male within the Southern Resident killer whale community. J26 and J27 are now the oldest males in J pod, both at 27 years old. The youngest known mother is J37 (17 years old) and the new matriarch of her family. The last loss in J pod was J50.
In the summer of 2018, J35 (Tahlequah) gave birth to a calf that died shortly after it was born. The grieving mother carried its body on her rostrum for 17 days, and captured the world’s attention.
J pod is currently composed of four matrilines (a societal system where all the whales are descended from their mother’s line, not their father’s) consisting of up to 27 individuals. The oldest female, Granny (J2), has an estimated birth year of 1911!
The remaining three matrilines descend from whales J4, J7, and J9, who are all deceased. Until recently, one of the most distinctive and recognizable whales in the southern resident community was Ruffles (J1), whose tall and wavy dorsal fin made him easy to recognize, even for beginning whale-watchers. Ruffles was almost always seen swimming near Granny (J2). Sadly, Ruffles was last seen in November 2010 and is presumed to have died over the winter.
Spieden (J8) is the oldest member of the J4 matriline and displays a distinctive wheezing sound when breathing through her blow hole. She is the oldest member of her matriline, but has no surviving calves.
J pod spends more time than the other pods in the inner Salish Sea, traveling as far north as Texada Island on BC’s Sunshine Coast. Each fall and winter they return a few times each month to central Puget Sound near Seattle, following winter salmon runs.
Current J pod members: J16 Slick, J17 Princess Angeline, J19 Shachi, J22 Oreo, J26 Mike, J27 Blackberry, J31 Tsuchi, J35 Tahlequah, J36 Alki, J37 Hy’Shqa, J38 Cookie, J39 Mako, J40 Suttles, J41 Eclipse, J42 Echo, J44 Moby, J45 Se-Yi’Chn, J46 Star, J47 Notch, J49 T’ilem I’nges, J50 Scarlet, J51 Nova, J53 Kiki.