Orphan Killer Whale A73 (Springer)

A juvenile female killer whale, thought to be 18-24 months old, was observed Jan. 14, 2002, in central Puget Sound in Washington State. The occurrence of a solitary animal was unusual because killer whales normally travel in tight family groups called pods. Orcas usually seen in Puget Sound consist of several pods called the Southern Residents; this whale isn't part of that population, and it's rare for an orca to be in the sound during winter.

Several groups involved in killer whale research and conservation worked to identify this animal. They confirmed that she is A73, for her family group and birth order, and had been on her own since the likely death of her mother sometime before summer 2001. This orca is a member of the Northern Resident population, which is typically seen in the summer 300 miles to the north in waters between the Canadian mainland and Vancouver Island. It's unusual for a Northern Resident to be in Puget Sound.

Learn about how NOAA and other entities helped rescue this orphaned orca.