'Chainsaw is in the house': Distinctive orca spotted off Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- A roughly 43-year-old orca, affectionately named "Chainsaw" by researchers, was spotted swimming with its family off the coast of Vancouver Island on Monday.
The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) says that Chainsaw, named after its distinctive dorsal fin, was seen swimming through the Haro Strait between Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands with more than 10 other Bigg's killer whales.
"It was a beautiful day on the water to watch whales," said Sara McCullagh, captain of the whale watching vessel the Sea Lion, based out of Friday Harbor, Wash.
"It’s always fun to see Chainsaw," she said. "He’s a bucket-list animal for a lot of us in the whale watching community."
The PWWA believes that Chainsaw likely lost parts of its dorsal fin in its youth, when a seal or a sea lion took a bite out of the orca.
Chainsaw was seen with other members of the T-pod, including an orca that is presumed to be its mother, T065, also known as Whidbey II.
Chainsaw is believed to have been born in 1978 and frequently travels with its mother as far up the Canadian coast as Alaska, according to the PWWA. Alaskan researchers refer to the orca as "Zorro."
When the orca was spotted Monday, one American whale watching company was quick to spread the news.
"Chainsaw is in the house," said Jeff Friedman, owner of whale watching company Maya's Legacy in Friday Harbor. The PWWA says Friedman made the announcement while on board a whale watching tour.
Bigg's killer whales live in the inland waters of B.C. and Washington state. According to the PWWA, nearly 400 unique Bigg's killer whales have been identified and catalogued.
The species' population is on the rise, according to researchers, due to an abundance of prey, including seals and sea lions.
Bigg's killer whales are different than southern resident killer whales, which are critically endangered and feed mostly on chinook salmon.