Tuesday, February 22, 2011

J1 Ruffles Officially Missing

 J1 Ruffles swimming alongside J2 Granny
Photo by Sandy Buckley

After several recent encounters with J pod the Center for Whale Research, charged with keeping the Southern Resident Killer Whale population census, has officially listed J1 aka Ruffles as missing. The last time he was photographed was on November 21st, causing concern that he may not have survived the winter.

 Ruffles was the first Southern Resident to receive a photo-identification letter (J, meaning he is a member of J pod) and number (1, the first J pod whale to be documented). His name is an attribute to his immediately recognizable dorsal fin; tall and wavy like a Ruffles potato chip.

Born in 1951 (est.) Ruffles is the oldest and most recognizable male of this endangered orca community. His closest companion is J2 Granny, a 100 year old female who is believed to be his mother. The two were often seen traveling together. Granny, along with almost all other J pod whales have been photographed back in the Salish Sea in 2011, but the absence of the massive dorsal fin normally alongside of Granny has been hard to ignore. 

Ruffles has many offspring from K,  L, and even his own J pod. Preliminary paternity testing suggests that he is the most active male breeder, and has fathered more calves than any other male in the community. Perhaps the females of his community chose to mate with him time and time again because of his mature age and massive size, an indicator of 'good genes'. Or maybe it had to do with another reason entirely, a reason we humans may never understand. What is known however, is how much he will be missed if he is truly gone.

Within the next few months the entire community will likely return to the Salish Sea, and the whales unaccounted for will be declared 'missing and presumed dead' by the Center for Whale Research. Until then all we can do is hope that Ruffles is out there somewhere, alive and well, and finding plentiful schools of salmon.  

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow :( This is truly upsetting news and I am deeply saddened by this ;'( Without the southern community's "most active male breeder"...it will have a severe negative impact on their survival :(. Thank you for sharing, even if it is not what we want to hear, see or believe.

Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network said...

That brings about an interesting question of who will take his place as the most active breeder? Perhaps rather than one male taking over it will be more evenly distributed, at least giving the community better genetic diversity. Fingers still crossed that he'll show up in the spring and surprise us all : )

Anonymous said...

We can all hope :)

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