The best scientific data available shows that Southern Resident killer whales’ habitat (also called their range) is from Haida Gwaii in British Columbia to the north, along the Pacific coast to Monterey California in the south and the inland waters of the Salish Sea including Puget Sound near Seattle, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia in Canada. In 2007, J pod whales were seen as far north as SE Alaska!

The SRKWs rely very heavily on habitat from Cape Flattery, Washington to Point Sur, California because they have evolved to match their movements with the seasonal runs of their primary prey, Chinook salmon. At Wild Orca we are advocating for this area to be designated as “critical habitat” for the Southern Resident killer whales.

Other populations of orcas overlapping in range with the Southern Resident killer whales are the Offshores and the Bigg’s (also known as “Transients”). Offshores are thought to have the largest range of any killer whales in the world, spending most of their time well offshore and rarely coming in contact with humans. Additionally, there are two populations of Bigg’s killer whales that overlap with the Southern Resident killer whales; those that spend their time in the Salish Sea and the inland waters of British Columbia, and those that spend their time off the California Coast. These populations eat marine mammals, and therefore their movements are linked to the presence of seals, sea lions, porpoises, and migrating whales.

Killer whales do roam within the home ranges of other populations. What the labels “range” or “habitat” really signify is which portion of the ocean that the population appears to depend on. This is relevant to the Southern Resident killer whales because as stated in the Endangered Species Act, “critical habitat will be designated for endangered and threatened species, based on the best scientific data available.”

We know what the data says, now it’s time to protect the habitat.

We need your help.