Springer’s summer – October 4th 2005

Like the touch of fine silk caressing skin, Springer’s presence amidst her community was barely noticeable this summer. She was there, but she has become integrated so well that it was often difficult to find her among the crowd of other orcas visiting Johnstone Strait. By no means invisible, and still clearly identifiable via her striking “open” saddle patch, Springer is now a normal young orca in practically every way. Her status as an orphan, and the extraordinary adventure that took her away from home and then back again, of course make her unique. But it is clear that Springer has now joined the ordinary flow of life of the northern resident orca community, that she has a secure place among her close and distant kin, that she is where she belongs!

Springer was among the first “northern resident” orcas that returned to the Johnstone Strait this summer, on June 22nd. It was early morning at first light, and they came along the Hanson Island shoreline in Blackney Pass in a playful muddle of A12s, A4s and A5s. They were so close to us, and so jumbled together, that it was surprisingly difficult to determine exactly who was there. From their mix of A1, A4 & A5 calls, we had known whom to anticipate, but still we were only able to confirm just a few individuals. One group of 4 matched the profile of Springer’s adoptive family, Yakat’s “A11” matriline. It wasn’t a positive identification, but we believed Springer was there. At a certain point, we decided to relax and absorb the beautiful whale-filled moment, enjoying the spyhops and breaches that punctuated the orcas’ swim towards Johnstone Strait. All too soon, they disappeared from sight.

Over the next 2 weeks we thought we heard Springer’s unique voice several times, but a definite sighting did not occur until July 8th. The day before, we had become momentarily worried when Yakat (A11) and her 2 offspring, A13 & A56, passed by us in clear view, without Springer! Then we heard an “A4” voice among the calls of Scimitar`s “A12” family, which was following the A11s. We thought that Springer may have gone off to play with her young cousins, but could not spot her among the group. The next day, Springer finally showed herself to us, in her usual place beside her great aunt Yakat.
In the weeks that followed, Springer and the other “A11s” spent much of their time in eastern Johnstone Strait, making only occasional trips to the west and into our view. In the east, she spent a lot of time with the A8 matriline of the A5 pod, and seemed to especially enjoy the company of Holly (A42) and her 2 year old baby, A79. On July 21st, the A8s and A11s made a brief visit to western Johnstone Strait, with Springer in their midst. For a few days after, the A8s & A11s travelled with Scimitar’s family (the A12s), forming an old comfortable alliance that we have seen before. It wasn’t long, however, before they left the A12s and returned to the east.

Springer was among a crowd of 60 orcas when she departed the “core area” on September 6th . This was the last day we saw her this summer.

Now 5 years old, and visibly bigger than she was a year ago, Springer is becoming increasing comfortable among the other orcas, blending with her community. We take this as a sign of success. It is also an affirmation that the efforts of so many, that led to Springer`s 2002 return to her family and community, were well worthwhile.

Thanks to Paul Tixier for the photos of Springer, and John & Linda Gansner of Robson Bight Charters for their reports about Springer when she was in eastern Johnstone Strait.

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