The T49As are a family of Bigg’s killer whales we have seen on many of our whale watching tours. Matriarch, T49A, is the oldest of her siblings and a successful mother. She has had five known offspring and all of them are still living. Her second oldest, T49A2, has dispersed and is often seen in the company of other matrilines. As of the fall of 2017 her oldest son, T49A1, seems to have dispersed as well — at least temporarily. He’s been traveling with his aunt, T49B, and her offspring. Time will tell if T49A1 rejoins his family or travels with other orcas. T49A had her most recent calf in late 2017 —welcome T49A5.
The social structure of Bigg’s orcas is different from their resident killer whale cousins. This is especially obvious here in the San Juan Islands and surrounding Salish Sea where we frequently see both ecotypes of killer whales on our whale watching tours. Whereas the resident orcas stay with their mothers for life, Bigg’s killer whales will disperse from their mothers. Adult females typically split off when they begin having their own offspring. Teenage males will sometimes disperse from their mothers as well and travel with an older sibling or aunt. It is also not uncommon to see them traveling alone or with unrelated Bigg's killer whales.
On January 1st, 2018 our whale watching tour encountered the T49A orcas right outside Friday Harbor. That makes the T49A's the first whales we encountered in our 2018 whale watching season! They were traveling in a tight group with other killer whale families, T75B's and T75C's. All three orca matrilines were traveling with young calves, each born late in 2017, which made for an exciting kick off to our 2018 whale watching watching! Here's hoping 2018 brings health and prosperity to the whales we love and the ecosystem we are lucky to call home.
Upcoming Whale & Wildlife Tours
We have small group whale watching & wildlife tours departing daily from both downtown Friday Harbor next to the ferry landing, and Snug Harbor Resort on the west side of San Juan Island. We hope you will join us!