The Resident Orcas Of J-Pod
May 6, 2012
J-1 Ruffles (Male) Born 1949, Deceased 2010: Even though Ruffles has now passed on, we like to include him in our discussions on whale watching trips. Ruffles was not only the most popular whale in the Southern Resident Community, he was also an icon of British Columbias wild west coast. Ruffles was the oldest known male orca in the world. The average life expectancy of a male killer whale is 40 to 60 years, so Ruffles lived a long life at 59. He was the easiest orca to identify because of his 6-foot tall, wavy dorsal fin, giving it a ruffled appearance and thus his name. Biologists believe that there was a family relation between Ruffles and Granny (J-2), but how they may have been related is not known. Ruffles was also featured in the Free Willy movies, as Southern Resident whales were filmed for shots used in the films.
J-2 Granny (Female) Born 1911: Granny is the oldest known orca in the entire world. The average lifespan of female orca is between 60 and 80 years, therefore Granny has surpassed this expectation greatly, turning 102 this year. She is the matriarch leader of J-pod, always guiding the groups movements and activities. Granny is a wealth of knowledge for other family members, and she is active in co-parenting by babysitting and teaching young orca in the family. Granny has no living offspring, but she is the grandmother of Samish (J-14), and a greatgrandmother to 3 other J-pod whales. She became a great, great grandmother in the summer of 2012, when her great granddaughter, Hy’Shqa (J-37) gave birth to her first calf J-49. Granny has a solid saddlepatch and a half-moon nick out of the trailing edge of her dorsal fin.
J-8 Spieden (Female) Born 1933: Spieden is the second oldest female in J-pod. She has no living relatives, but has become a sudo-mother to Onyx (L-87), a male killer whale from L-pod who fancies traveling with J-pod the past few years. She has a quirky characteristic that makes it easy to know that she is in the area. When Spieden surfaces to breathe, she makes a weezing-whistling sound from her blowhole. The cause of this sound is not known and does not seem to affect her health as she has made this sound since studies first began on the population in the early 1970s.
J-14 Samish (Female) Born 1974: Samish is the granddaughter of Granny (J-2). Her mother and sister are now deceased. She has had three surviving offspring Hy’Shqa (J-37), Suttles (J-40), and Se Yi-Chn (J-45). She has lost 2 calves over her lifetime. Samish also lost her 17 year old son, Riptide (J-30) during the winter of 2011-2012. Samish became a grandmother in the summer of 2012 when her daughter Hy’Shqa had her first calf, J-49. Samish can be seen traveling with all her offspring, often close to Granny (J-2) and Spieden (J-8).
J-16 Slick (Female) Born 1972: Slick is an excellent mother who has had a total of 5 offspring. She gave birth to the newest member of the Southern Residents, J-48, who was born on December 17th, 2011. Unfortunately her son Keet (J-33) did not return with J-pod in the summer of 2011, he was 14 years of age. Her other children are Mike(J-26), Alki (J-36), and Echo (J-42). Slick is an active and social whale, usually swimming along with her growing family.
J-17 Princess Angeline (Female) Born 1977: Princess Angeline is another J-pod mother whose own mother and sibling are both deceased. She is not lonely however, as her own children and grandchildren keep her busy! She is the mother of Polaris (J-28), Tahlequah (J-35) and young
Moby (J-44). Princess Angeline and her two daughters all had offspring within one year of each other! So this busy family can be seen swimming with 3 active and rambunctious young whales who love to play together.
J-19 Shachi (Female) Born 1979: Sachi has one living offspring, a daughter born in 2005 named Eclipse (J-41). She is also the Auntie of
Blackberry (J-27), Tsuchi (J-31) and Mako (J-39). Sachi has a closed saddlepatch and no nicks in her dorsal fin.
J-22 Oreo (Female) Born 1985: Oreo is the mother of two boys, Double Stuf (J-34) and Cookie (J-38). These young males stay close to their Mom, often being very playful as they breach and roll around in the water. When Oreos sister Ewok died in 1998, she took over the parental responsibility of her young niece Rhapsody, who was only 2 years old when her mother died.
J-26 Mike (Male) Born 1991: Mike is a special whale because he was named after the late Michael Bigg, the first biologist who discovered that orca can be individually identified by their unique dorsal fin and saddlepatch. He is the son of Slick (J-16), and brother to Alki (J-36), Echo (J-42), and J-48 who has not yet been named. Mike is the same age as pod-mate Blackberry (J-27). The two now mature males spent lots of time playing together as youngsters and can often still be seen hanging out together. Mike can be identified by his open saddlepatch on both sides of his back.
J-27 Blackberry (Male) Born 1991: Blackberry is one of the most recognizable male orca in the Southern Resident community. He has a tall dorsal fin with an open saddlepatch on one side that looks like a black swirl in the white area, and an almost closed saddlepatch on the other. Blackberry is a fantastic brother to his sister Tsuchi (J-31) and his little brother Mako (J-39). The mother to these three siblings was named Blossom, who died in 2008. Since Mako was only five years old at the time, Blackberry and Tsuchi had to keep a close eye on their brother. Blackberry is often seen with his siblings, herding Mako in the right direction. Blackberry is also the same age as pod- mate Mike, who he can be seen cruising with from time to time.
J-28 Polaris (Female) Born 1993: Polaris is a stunning female in J-pod. It is always fun to spot Polaris as she is a fairly new Mom, having her first calf Star (J-46) in 2009. Polaris is easy to pick out because she has a nick out of her dorsal fin, about half way down the trailing edge. She is the oldest offspring of Princess Angeline (J-17), and sister to Tahlequah (J-35) and Moby (J-44). This expanding family is a treat to see as Polaris, her mom, and her sister all had calves within one year. All calves have survived and play together continuously.
J-30 Riptide (Male) Born 1995: Sadly Riptide passed away in the winter of 2011-2012. His death came as a surprise because he was so young. We do not know Riptide’s cause of death, but we do know that toxic contamination levels in the Southern Resident Orca Community are extremely high, causing illnesses that may lead to premature deaths. Riptide was almost a mature male, evident by his tall dorsal fin and large body size. He was the son of Samish (J-14), and he had three siblings, Hy’Shqa (J-37), Suttles (J-40), and Se-Yi-Chn (J-45). Riptide was part of the J-2 matriline, making Granny (J-2) his great grandmother. Riptide, like all orca, was often seen swimming near his immediate family. He was one of our favourites to watch in J-pod.
J-31 Tsuchi (Female) Born 1994: Now that Tsuchi is 18 years of age, we can expect to see her have her first calf anytime now. She has had a lot of practice parenting as she has been helping her brother Blackberry (J-27)raise their younger brother Mako (J-39), since their mother died in 2008. Tsuchi can be seen socializing with other whales her age, but never far from her younger brother.
J-32 Rhapsody (Female) Born 1996: Rhapsody is a mature female who has not yet had her first calf. She lost her mother in 1998 and has no siblings. Because orca live in close extended families, she was adopted by her Aunt Oreo (J-22), spending time with her cousins Double Stuf (J-34) and Cookie (J-38). Rhapsody has an unique swirl at the bottom of her saddlepatch.
J-34 Double Stuf (Male) Born 1998: Double Stuf is a teenage male who will soon start to sprout a tall dorsal fin as he begins to mature into an adult. He is the first son of Oreo (J-22) and brother to Cookie (J-38). Double Stuf is very close to his cousin Rhapsody (J-32), as his family adopted her when her mother passed away.
J-35 Tahlequah (Female) Born 1998: Tahlequah is a first-time mother, giving birth to her son Notch (J-47) in 2010. She gets to experience motherhood along side her sister Polaris (J-28) and her mother Princess Angeline (J-17), as they all had a calf within one year of each other. The waters are often filled with chatter when this family passes by as three females and three young calves tend to make a lot of noise!
J-36 Alki (Female) Born 1999: Alki is an active teenager who belongs to a big family. Her mother is Slick (J-16) and her siblings are Mike (J-26), Echo (J-42), and new sibling J-48, born in December of 2011. Alki is often spotted foraging and socializing with her tight-knit family group.
J-37 Hy’Shqa (Female) Born 2001: Hy’Shqa was named by the Samish First Nation. Her name means blessing or thank you in the coast Salish/Samish language. Hy’Shqa is a member of the J-2 matriline, with Granny (J-2) being her great grandmother and Samish (J-14) is her mother. She also has two brothers, Riptide (J-30), who passed away during the winter of 2011-2012, and Se-Yi-Chn (J-45). She has one sister, Suttles (J-40). Hy’Shqa surprised us all in the summer of 2012, when she was seen with her first calf at the age of eleven. Female orca generally do not have their first calf until they are at least 14 years of age. The majority of females are usually between the ages of 17 and 20 before they enter motherhood. Hy’Shqa and only one other resident orca in the Northern Community have been recorded with a calf at such a young age. With the help of a large extended family, including the experienced and knowledgable Granny, Hy’Shqa and her calf seem to be doing well. We are excited for their future!
J-38 Cookie (Male) Born 2003: Cookie may not be the most masculine name for a male orca, but he is definitely a boy! He is an active youngster who enjoys playing with his older brother Double Stuf (J-34) and his cousin Rhapsody (J-32), who is like an adopted sister, as she has been part of the family since before Cookie was born. His mother is Oreo (J-22), who stays close to Cookie much of the time.
J-39 Mako (Male) Born 2003: Mako is an exciting youngster to watch as he seems to like to play most of the time. He loves to swim ahead of his older brother Blackberry (J-27) and his older sister Tsuchi (J-31). Mako is often spotted breaching, tail slapping and spy-hopping as he learns life skills from his siblings. Mako lost his mother Blossom when he was only two years old, so he depends on his siblings to teach and protect him. Despite his rough start in life, he has become a very happy and healthy little whale!
J-40 Suttles (Female) Born 2004: Suttles is still a juvenile whale who enjoys playing with her siblings alot. Like other members of her family, Suttles was named by the Samish First Nation at a traditional potlatch naming ceremony. Her mother is Samish (J-14), who was named after the Samish First Nation. She is the younger sibling of Riptide (J-30) and Hy’Shqa (J-37), and the older sister of little Se-Yi-Chn (J-45). Her older brother Riptide (J-30) passed away in the winter of 2011-2012. Suttles became a young Auntie in the summer of 2012 to J-49, the new calf of her sister Hy’Shqa (J-37).
J-41 Eclipse (Female) Born 2005: Eclipse is the second offspring born to Shachi (J-19). Her only sibling died the same year it was born. Eclipse was born on Canada Day, July 1st, 2005. Researchers were skeptical about her survival as she was so small when she was born. Thankfully she has grown into a healthy and spunky juvenile. Eclipse stays close to her mother, but also enjoys playing with other whales similar to her age.
J-42 Echo (Female) Born 2007: Echo is the second youngest offspring born to Slick (J-16). She has two older siblings, Mike (J-26) and Tahlequah (J-36). She became a big sister this past December when her new sibling J-48 was born. Echo will be a great role model and playmate for her new sibling with lots of babysitting in her future!
J-44 Moby (Male) Born 2009: Moby is a playful little whale, with two nieces who are the same age as himself! He is the third calf of Princess Angeline (J-17) and the little brother of Polaris (J-28) and Tahlequah (J-35). Young whales like Moby are very important to the future of this Endangered population.
J-45 Se-Yi-Chn (Male) Born 2009: Se-Yi-Chn is the sixth offspring of Samish (J-14) and this is why he was given his name by the Samish First Nation, meaning younger sibling. He had a brother named Riptide (J-30), who passed away in the winter of 2011-2012. He has two sisters, Hy’Shqa (J-37) and Suttles (J-40). He became a very young Uncle to his new niece or nephew, J-49, born to his big sister Hy’Shqa (J-37). He loves to spend time with his large family. Se-Yi-Chn was part of a baby boom year, when 5 orca calves were born amongst the three pods.
J-46 Star (Female) Born 2009: Star is a lively and lovable little whale who can be seen actively playing with her Uncle Moby (J-44) and cousin Notch (J-47), who were all born between January 2009 and January 2010. Star is the first daughter born to Polaris (J-28), who is a social butterfly, so Star gets to meet and play with other members of the community too.
J-47 Notch (Male) Born 2010: Notch got his name from the notch or nick he got in his dorsal fin before his first birthday. He is the first calf born to Tahlequah (J-35). He is often found causing mischief with his cousin Star (J-46) and his Uncle Moby (J-44), who are all close in age.
J-48 Unnamed (Unknown Sex) Born December 17th, 2011: J-48 is the sixth offspring of Slick (J-16). He or she was an early Christmas gift and the third calf born in 2011 to the Southern Residents. The most vulnerable period of an oras life is the first six months. As all of Slicks offspring have survived past the infant stage, hopes are hight that J-48 will make it as well. He or she has lots of family members to help protect and care for him or her. If J-48 does survive, he or she will be given a name in the summer or fall of 2012.
J-49 Unnamed (Unknown Sex) Born 2012: Little J-49 was the latest addition to Jpod and the Southern Resident Community in the summer of 2012. Until we can get a good view of this calf’s belly, we will not know if J-49 is male or female. J-49’s entry into the world was a major surprise to all who closely watch the Southern Residents. J-49 is the first calf born to Hy’Shqa (J-37), who was only 11 years old when she gave birth to J-49. Only one other orca on British Columbia’s coastline has been recorded having a calf at such a young age. Female orca typically do not start to have offspring until they are at least 14 years old. It is more common to see first-time mothers between the ages of 17 and 20. The birth of J-49 is also special because this little calf makes Granny (J-2), a great, great grandmother! We are excited to watch J-49 grow up!