Southern Resident Killer Whales

This fish-eating population numbers at less than 80 individuals and is listed as Endangered under both the Canadian Species at Risk Act and the United States Endangered Species Act. Southern resident killer whales generally travel in large pods of closely-related individuals within predictable ranges and feed primarily on salmonid species with a strong preference for Chinook salmon.

Southern residents spend most of the summer in the waters around southern Vancouver Island and northern Washington. Their winter range is less well known, but they have been sighted as far north as Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and as far south as Monterey Bay, California. Learn more about the resident killer whales.

Most whales in the southern resident population are named after specific places or unique features such as Notch (J47) who has a distinctive notch in his dorsal fin. The southern resident killer whales are named by The Whale Museum and are monitored by the Center for Whale Research.


Southern resident killer whales are very active at the surface. Although all killer whale populations breach, spyhop, and preform other acrobatics, the behaviour is much more common with southern residents. Spyhopping involves the whale raising it’s head vertically out of the water to above eye level in order to peer above the surface.

Adopt a Killer Whale