A rare grey orca that was spotted off the waters of Nanaimo has now appeared in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, Island Adventures Whale Watching Port Angeles was on a regular tour when they spotted a light grey-coloured dorsal fin peeking out from the waves. It was Tl’uk, a male calf born in 2018, who shot to news headlines back in November 2018.
“It was an incredible sight that I am sure our guests will never forget,” says Lee Leddy, a naturalist for Island Adventures in a recent blog post. “We enjoyed these whales for quite a while, as it seemed they had made a kill and were feeding before moving on to find some of the other orcas.”
Tl’uk, whose name means ‘moon’ in Coast Salish, was seen with the T46B pod, a group of eight Bigg’s (transient) orcas that have been spotted in BC’s coastal waters.
Researchers have previously noted that the young whale isn’t albino because it would have completely white skin and no pigment in their eyes. Instead, it is most likely leucism, a condition where there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal. It could also be Chediak-Higashi syndrome, a genetic mutation that is similar to albinism but may cause medical complications.
Local whale watchers will continue to monitor the whale whenever it is spotted to see if any changes occur to Tl’uk. According to the Georgia Straight Alliance, there are an estimated 400 transient killer whales along the coast of the Pacific Northwest.