Where can you see orcas in the wild?

Orcas breaching


As part of Orca Action Month, we are introducing a new series of infographics to help share the story of our southern resident orcas and the challenges they face. Last week we shared information showing how our local orcas are related through an interactive family tree and this week we will be focusing on where people can see our southern and northern resident pods in the wild.

Our southern and northern resident populations can be found in the Puget Sound and greater Salish Sea year-round and both subgroups have evolved to have a diet that consists solely of salmon (Chinook salmon predominantly). Though their ranges may overlap, northern and southern residents mostly live in different waters, have different calls and do not breed with each other. The southern resident population is struggling the most.

Below is an interactive map that compiles sightings data from the Whale Museum and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Click on any of the boxes to see where different pods have been seen or where they spend their time in the Salish Sea at different times of year. Note that while they spend a lot of time in our local Puget Sound, and that is where we have the most sightings data, they do regularly go out to the Pacific coast along Washington and Oregon—including near the Columbia River—and they can range as far south as California as they hunt for their food.



See full infographic.


The southern resident orcas are composed of the J, K and L pods. You can use the maps above to check out historical sightings data in the Salish Sea region for any of those three pods or other subgroups. If you would like to view orcas in the wild we recommend trying to view our southern residents from land because boat noise can interfere with their ability to hunt. You can visit the website of one of our conservation partners, The Whale Trail, which has done a great job compiling viewpoints throughout Washington, British Columbia, Oregon and California.

Summer and fall are great times to see orcas and other marine mammals, so grab a pair of binoculars and see if you can spot one of these amazing creatures from the 46 identified viewpoints around Puget Sound.



Youth Poster Contest

Do you know a 7- to 17-year-old who loves art—and orcas? Together with our Orca Salmon Alliance partners, we are supporting a Youth Poster Contest for Orca Action Month! Prizes include a family four-pack of passes to the Seattle Aquarium and an orca adoption from The Whale Museum. Enter anytime between June 1–30. See details.

Orca Action Month events

There are many great Orca Action Month events around the Pacific Northwest in the month of June. Activities include a Raffi concert (children’s performer), beach clean-ups, sea kayak tours or our own Orca Awareness Weekend. It all starts with the Orca Action Month Kick-off Festival on June 2, with music, food and fun activities! Check out all of the events

Sign our petition in support of orca recovery

Take action for orcas! Multiple federal programs of vital importance to the southern resident orcas’ recovery have been eliminated in the Trump Administration’s proposed FY20 budget. Will you join the Seattle Aquarium and our Orca Salmon Alliance partners in urging Congress to fully fund these programs that are essential for recovering orcas, salmon and our shared marine ecosystem? Please sign our petition!

Support the Seattle Aquarium

Your support connects people to the ocean in a way not otherwise possible and inspires bold action to care for animals and protect our shared marine environment.