Every region has its flagship animal--New York City has its red-tailed hawk on a building side high above Central Park; Florida has alligators and renegade pythons; the Rocky Mountains have pumas; and Phoenix has saguaro cactus and (failing to make those into an animal) road-runners. In the Northwest cities of Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, natural-news updates often revolve around killer whales, or orcas.

In general, though, orca news is a bit off to the side for the rest of the country, except when they show up in a viral video chasing fishermen in a motor-boat off the coast of San Diego, for instance.

So, what are orcas? They're the apex predator of the seas, and the largest member of the dolphin family, although (despite being called "killer" whales) they rarely attack humans and live in cooperative groups.

Many marine organizations follow the doings of orcas, whales and dolphins. One of those is the The Marine Mammal Center, in California. In the Pacific Northwest, the Center for Whale Research gives updates to email subscribers regarding the three resident orca pods in the Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia. Together, those two and some other inlets make up the Salish Sea, between British Columbia and northern Washington state. The three pods (J, K and L) form matrilineal groups centered around older females, usually mothers or grandmothers. For the length of their lives, male and female offspring remain in close proximity to their mothers. Recently, a new calf was born into L pod in British Columbia. 

If you'd like to learn more about "adopting" an orca, see the website for WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

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