Famous killer whale ‘Chainsaw’ returns to Salish Sea

Apr 6, 2023, 12:28 PM

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

A local celebrity killer whale has returned to the Salish Sea, the Pacific Whale Watch Association said on Thursday.

T63, known as Chainsaw for his jagged fin, is a member of the coastal Bigg’s killer whale population. He was first spotted on Tuesday morning in Boundary Pass near Washington’s San Juan Islands.

“A Chainsaw sighting is a telltale sign of spring,” said Erin Gless, Executive Director of the PWWA. “He makes an appearance at roughly the same time each year. He’s a local celebrity.”

Chainsaw was born in 1978 and is considered one of the oldest males in the Bigg’s population at 45 years old, according to the PWWA. The whale’s visits to the inland waters usually last only a few weeks at a time. Chainsaw has been seen throughout southeast Alaska, where he is known as Zorro.

Chainsaw was seen traveling with his presumed mother, T65, or Whidbey, said Mark Malleson, a local whale researcher and captain for Prince of Whales Whale Watching. Joining Chainsaw and Whidbey was Nanaimo, the matriarch of the T49A family.

The whales swam along the U.S. and Canada border throughout the day, thrilling whale-watching crews.

“I finally met the man, the myth, the legend,” said Lauren Tschirhart, marine naturalist for San Juan Safaris in Friday Harbor, Washington. “I’ve known about Chainsaw for years, but always missed out on seeing him. Today was my day. We made sure our guests understood how special this encounter was.”

Bigg’s killer whales feed on seals and sea lions and are not endangered, compared to the Southern Resident killer whales that rely on salmon, said the PWWA. There are nearly 400 Bigg’s killer whales in the waters of Washington and British Columbia. These whales can be seen almost every day in the Salish Sea and the population is growing.

Naturalist Tomis Filipovic, of Eagle Wing Tours, photographed a new calf traveling with a Bigg’s killer whale near Port Angeles on Sunday. The whale was 35-year-old T46B, known as Raksha. The PWWA said if confirmed, the calf will be Raksha’s seventh baby.

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