Just after 10 AM, our team departed Snug Harbor and turned north towards Henry Island. We encountered a large pod of mostly J pod whales on the island’s west side. Most of the pod moved quickly past us, but about five individuals fell behind the leading group and exhibited surface behaviors like lunging, surface rolls, spy hops, pec slaps, and tail slaps. We then saw that this group of 5 orcas was chasing a juvenile harbor porpoise. 2 orcas left the group soon after, and the three others proceeded to pass the juvenile porpoise for another 20 minutes. Upon receiving permission from the stranding network, we attempted to collect the dead harbor porpoise for an examination and necropsy, but we abandoned the effort when one of the juvenile whales surprised us and recaptured the body of the harbor porpoise. We followed the group for about 30 minutes waiting to collect the body should the group of orcas abandon it, but J36 held onto it until it presumably sank. We continued down the west side of San Juan Island, following the group as they spread throughout Haro Strait. We resumed our search for fecal samples until returning to Snug Harbor just after 5 PM.


Read more about this unique encounter here.

Research Vessel

R/V Cheena


Southern Resident Killer Whales


J Pod

Research Activities

Fecal Samples, Phocoenacide Data

This work is made possible in part by a grant from
Rose Foundation