SR3’s Dr. Holly Fearnbach and colleagues Dr. John Durban (NOAA), Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard (Coastal Ocean Research Institute) and Dr. Craig Matkin (North Gulf Oceanic Society) wrapped up their May 2018 health assessment of whale populations around the San Juan Islands, Washington.
Members of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population didn’t return in May, but the team still had a successful month. They were able to fly an unmanned octocopter to collect aerial photos of 28 individual Bigg’s “transient” killer whales, including a newborn calf, bringing the total up to 90 individuals from the West Coast Transient population that they have photographed since 2014.
The images collected will be used to assess growth and body condition to provide a key comparison of mammal-eating Bigg’s killer whales to the sympatric fish-eating Southern Resident killer whale population. Several predation events were observed and photographed involving two harbor seals and a harbor porpoise. The team will return to San Juan Island in September for their fall whale health assessment.