T124A is the eldest daughter of T124, a successful matriarch who is commonly seen around the San Juan Islands and throughout the the Salish Sea. We've seen her and her family on many of our whale watching tours.
T124A is a successful matriarch and a skilled hunter.
Like mother like daughter—at least in this instance. T124A is the eldest daughter of another established matriarch, T124. Both are skilled at raising their offspring and bringing down a variety of prey that they need in order to survive. They’ve been seen taking down Dall’s porpoise, harbor seals, harbor porpoise, and more. Now her second oldest daughter, T124A2, has two calves of her own continuing on the successful T124 matriline. As of the beginning of 2018 the T124 matriline consists of 14 whales across three generations.
Bigg’s killer whales of the Salish Sea were originally believed to be outcasts of the larger ‘resident’ groups.
It was only later when researchers realized that they were not related at all. These small groups of whales were totally different from their fish-eating cousins and genetic testing would later confirm that the two populations had diverged hundreds of thousands of years earlier.
Today we know that the most obvious difference is their diet. Bigg’s killer whales eat marine mammals instead of fish. As they utilize the Salish Sea in increasing numbers we are able to learn more about their family structures, their hunting strategies, and habitat usage. It will be interesting to see what another ten years will tell us about these amazing whales.
On February 24th, 2018 our whale watching tour caught up with T124A and her offspring in San Juan Channel, near Friday Harbor. The Bigg's killer whale matriline had been spotted heading north through Cattle Pass, the southern pass between Lopez and San Juan islands. When we got on scene the family was traveling split. T124A was with her oldest and youngest offspring---T124A1, who often travels separately from her mother, and T124A6 who was born last year. Incredibly there is a 20 year spread between the two! Her middle children, T124A3 and T124A4, were swimming ahead.
It didn't take long for the family to find a meal, but what surprised us was how quickly they found a second and third! The last was a confirmed harbor seal (though likely the other two were as well) and T124A did an impressive tail throw during the hunt. We left them to their meal as the sun began to set and made our way back to San Juan Island.
Interesting to note was that T124A's second daughter, T124A2, was swimming not far away with her two children, her uncle, T124C, and an unrelated male, T87. Whether the two groups met up or not remains to be seen.
Join us whale watching this season
We offer tours daily from 2 locations on San Juan Island: downtown Friday Harbor, next to the ferry landing, and from Snug Harbor Resort on the west side of San Juan Island. We hope to share the incredible ecosystem of the Salish sea with you on one of our whale & wildlife tours in 2018.