Oldest Known Orca 'Granny' Now Considered Dead After Missing for 3 Months

Jan 04, 2017 11:36 AM EST

After missing at the end of 2016, the oldest known orca, nicknamed "Granny", is now officially considered dead by the Center for Whale Research.

According to report from the Denver Channel, Granny, or more commonly known as J2 to marine scientists, was last spotted in October 2016. The female orca was then considered as missing until the Center for Whale Research announced that the killer whale is most likely to be already dead.

"I last saw her on October 12, 2016 as she swam north in Haro Strait far ahead of the others," wrote Kenneth C. Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, in an article in memoriam of Granny. "Perhaps other dedicated whale-watchers have seen her since then, but by year's end she is officially missing from the SRKW population, and with regret we now consider her deceased."

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J2 was first seen by Balcomb on April 16, 1976 in Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound. Granny was part of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) group J pod. She was characterized as a closed-saddle female small nick half way down on the trailing edge with a finger-size tag of tissue protruding upward from the bottom of the nick.

 Granny's exact age is still unknown, because she was first spotted when she was already adult. Previous estimate put Granny's age to be 105. However, researchers noted that the estimated age of Granny as a 12-year margin, which means Granny could be at least 90 years old. Wild orcas, such as Granny, have an average lifespan between 60 and 80 years old.

With the death of Granny, the SRKW population is now estimated to be 78 as of December 31, 2016, with the J pod containing only 24 individuals plus the wandering L87.Aside from the J pod, SRKW also consists of the K and L pods. The SRKW are frequently seen from spring through fall, in the protected inshore waters of the Salish Sea.

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