Transient Orcas, also known as Bigg’s Killer Whales (named after Dr.Michael Biggs, famous for his Killer whale reseach), or commonly called T’s are an ecotype of Orca that are marine mammal hunters (they also eat the occasional bird, and very rarely a terrestrial mammal, but not humans :). These animals traditionally travel in smaller groups of between two and six individuals and have less stable family bonds (as compared to the Resident Orcas, Southern and Northern). Generally Transient Orcas vocalize less than the Residents and have a different dialect than the other ecotypes.
In the last few years the Bigg’s Killer Whales have become less “transient” in our waters, the Salish Sea. We have, in the 76 calendar days between June 1 and Aug. 15 of last summer 2015, saw transient whales on at least 49 days of 79! We have seen even more consistency so far this season! In the last 10 years, which is short for a species to recover, we have noticed undoubtedly that more and more transient Orca are returning to this area every spring.
The increased amount of Transient Orcas in the area can be attributed to the influx of marine mammals, including harbour seals.The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network doesn’t tally its counts until the end of the year, but co-coordinator Tessa Danelesko said it’s safe to say transient populations are increasing.
The Vancouver Aquarium says that we are seeing population growth of two to three per cent a year. And they think that’s directly linked to prey availability. It is believed that there are about 300 Transient Orcas living between California and Alaska. All of this is excellent news for a species of cetacean that was once listed as endangered and I know we are all excited to have so many back already this spring!