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Orca Reporting

Category: General Article

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Although Orcas (commonly known as “Killer Whales”) are native to Oregon’s coastal waters, where they are during certain times of the year is still a mystery to biologists. To help understand these highly-intelligent and endangered animals, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is asking for assistance from citizen-scientists by organizing an Orca spotting network. If you’re on the Oregon Coast and happen to spot an Orca – whether it be an individual or a family group called a “pod” – NOAA asks you to do the following:

Note the time, date and location of the sighting.

Count the total number of whales. If possible, note how many of the whales were adult males (will have a very tall dorsal fin) and how many were adult females or juveniles (a shorter dorsal fin.) If you noticed any calves (very young Orcas) in the pod, count them too if possible.

Look carefully for identifying marks, such as scars or notches in the dorsal fins. An Orca’s body coloring is as unique as human fingerprints, so if you’re lucky enough to notice any unusual markings this will help scientists identify individuals.

Note what direction the Orcas were moving.

What activities did the Orcas appear to be engaged in? Were they hunting? Playing? Leaping out of the water (breeching) or raising their heads out of the water to look at the environment around them (spy hopping)?

After making your notes (or taking photos or video), contact the reporting line at 1-866-672-2638. In you’re a minor, you should first ask for permission to file a sighting report with your parent or guardian. Be prepared to leave your full name and contact information with the reporting line operator.

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Dreaming of Killer Whales

Jeff Hogan of the non-profit organization Killer Whale Tales describes how an encounter with an Orca during his childhood has developed into a lifelong passion to protect these endangered cetaceans.