The whales are feeding on chum salmon after spending most of the summer in northern Puget Sound.
A pod of killer whales put on a show in central Puget Sound on Thursday.
The orcas were spotted breaching, spy-hopping, slapping their tails and just generally milling about all over, all day long.
They were going after chum salmon, said Orca Network Director Howard Garrett. For most of the year, the whales typically eat Chinook salmon, but when fall comes, they start going after the smaller fish species in the Puget Sound.
Garrett said the whale pictured breaching is male and part of the J pod, which began as a group near the San Juan Islands. They typically spend most of the summer in the northern region, he said.
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But around October, the pod typically moves from the northern area down Admiralty Inlet to south of Vashon Island, according to the orca network.
The breaching orca that’s pictured is likely J-34, named DoubleStuf, and is about 17 years old based on the curve of the edge of his dorsal fin, he said.
The Orca Network is a Washington nonprofit organization that aims to connect whale enthusiasts and promote orca education in the Pacific Northwest. Garrett is based on Whidbey Island, and he has been doing work with whales for more than 30 years.
Thursday’s sightings were mainly reported from Vashon and Alki in the morning, Elliott Bay and Richmond Beach at midday, and between Kingston and Point No Point until dark.
President of Orca Conservancy Shari Tarantino said though the recent sightings are exciting, it’s important spectators give the whales space. They’re an endangered species, she said, and “we need to just let them be.”
“We don’t need people harassing them,” Tarantino said.
Washington State Ferries staff and passengers tweeted sightings, too.