Big Momma! T109 (born in the mid 1970’s) is a frequent visitor to Clayoquot Sound. This matriarch is a mother to 4 daughters and 1 son plus Grandmother/Great Grandmother to 13 offspring. She was in Tofino yesterday with T109D, T109D1 and T109E. Yesterday was our first encounter with her since T109B and T109C split off with their offspring.
Killer whales have a female-dominant or matriarchal social structure. However, in contrast to resident killer whale behaviour, where individuals closely associate with their matriline (mother and descendants) throughout their lives, Bigg's killer whale offspring may disperse and form groups with individuals from other maternal lineages. Typical sizes of Bigg's killer whale groups are three to six animals, though temporary associations of over 30 whales have been observed. The tendency to form smaller groups is likely a result of their foraging ecology, as energy intake is maximized when they forage in groups of three individuals.
The T109 Killer Whale gang was picked up up the Glory Hole with the T028’s and they made their way into the Tofino Harbour and headed up Browning Passage. They then turned around past Tsapee Narrows and then headed back out of the Tofino Harbour and up the coast to Cleland Island. The T028’s headed offshore. The T109’s were hammering on seals and swimming loops around Cleland Island for most of the afternoon. When we left them they were headed up the coast towards Siwash.
Photos: Jennifer Steven