Encounter #55 - August 23, 2019
Encounter Number: 55
Enc Start Time: 11:20
Enc End Time: 13:55
Observers: Dave Ellifrit and Michael Weiss
Pods or ecotype: Transients
Location: Victoria waterfront
Begin Lat/Long: 48 22.10/123 26.32
End Lat/Long: 48 22.55 /123 21.19
Friday morning, we received reports of the T137s heading east near William Head. There was concern over the welfare of T137A who was reported to be acting lethargic and was often trailing the rest of the group. The T137s had also been seen by boats the evening before and the same behavior had been witnessed. We were asked to come take a look at T137A so Dave and Michael headed down to Snug Harbor and left in the boat at 1020.
We arrived on scene off of Albert Head at 1120 to find the T137s heading slowly east, now in a loose group after T137, T137B, and T137D had recently rejoined T137A. T137A was moving very slowly and his dorsal fin tip appeared long before he would surface to breathe. When he surfaced, he would arch his head up ever so slightly. The other three T137s milled around him and then continued heading slowly east with T137A following a short distance behind. Around 1140, T137A formed up with the rest of the T137s and they traveled slowly in a tight foursome. T137A would sometimes take an extra breath or two after the other three whales went down on a long dive.
After several minutes, the T137s came up from a long dive and appeared to be in the middle of a kill although we were too far away to see what they got. T137 and T137B moved on ahead after the kill was over while T137A and T137D stayed behind to feed for another 6-7 minutes. The T137s continued slowly east and T137A fell up to a half mile behind the other three before they came back to T137A at about 1345. The whales milled around and were in a loose group still pointed east just a little west of Clover Point when we ended the encounter at 1355.
While something was definitely wrong with T137A’s behavior, how he looked physically was a lot harder to judge. T137A, at least in his teenage years, has historically had a different appearance than most transients. He lacks the big mound of blubber behind the blow hole that most transients have which makes his back come to a pinnacle halfway between the blowhole and dorsal fin. This look also gives him a flattened area behind the blow hole. While this look can change with the roll of the whale so he looks fatter, the scary, skinny look can also be exaggerated when he bobs his head as he surfaces. Included in the encounter summary are three photos of T137A from previous years that show he can give off these skinnier looks at various times and angles. We hope to see the T137s again in the next week or so to see if there is any change in T137A’s behavior and body condition.
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388