Episode 6 – Culture & Social Dynamics of Bigg’s Killer Whales
Bigg’s killer whales are a thriving population we see often in the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia. In this episode we take a closer look into what we are learning about their fascinating culture and social dynamics. Joining us is return guest, Monika Wieland Shields, co-founder and director of Orca Behavior Institute.
We discuss and highlight the differences between the two populations of orcas we see in the Salish Sea, the endangered fish-eating Southern Resident killer whales and the growing population of marine mammal-eating Bigg’s killer whales. We discuss the primary cultural difference in their prey and also discuss at length the differences in how they socialize, family structure, vocalizations, and social dynamics.
We also discuss changes in each population’s presence in the inland waters over the last decade and how Bigg’s killer whales used to have a peak in their occurrence here but are now somewhere in the Salish Sea almost every day, often in multiple groups. We also talk about how their original names, Resident and Transient orcas, are no longer appropriate names. Fish-eating and mammal-eating is the ultimate description.
We talk about how we are now learning the culture of Bigg’s killer whales because of the increased frequency of sightings. We have far less history spending time with Biggs than the 40 years of observation of fish-eating orcas. We discuss the interesting aspects of what we are learning.
We also get into threats to the Bigg’s population, specifically proposed pinniped culls. We talk about how regional wide culls could impede the Bigg’s population, whereas targeted culls in very local areas may be less harmful.
We conclude this episode discussing recent sightings with the T37As, T2Cs, and T69s.
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For complete show notes, links and photos, please visit our website: https://www.afterthebreachpodcast.com/e/episode-6-biggs-killer-whales/
Photos mentioned in this episode:
T37As hunting along Protection Island. Photo by Sara Shimazu
T49A1 during a family reunion. Photo by Jeff Friedman
T2Cs. Photo by Sara Shimazu
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