Oldest known orca spotted in ‘high spirits’ off San Juan Island

NOTE: First reported on kiro7.com on Aug. 3, 2016 (All photo credits in this story go to Heather MacIntyre.) Sadly, Researchers considered J2 Granny dead as of Jan. 2017

Estimated to be around 105 years old, J2 Granny is thought to be the oldest known living orca.

The Orca Network posted photos of Granny to its Whale Sighting Report on July 27. She was spotted near San Juan Island’s False Bay.

“We watched the J11s (J27, J31, and J39) traveling with J2 and adopted son, L87. They sure seemed to be in high spirits … And then there was that humpback that popped up surprisingly in the distance breaching over and over and over,” photographer Heather MacIntyre wrote.

The Orca Network tells KIRO 7 News that Granny is said to be around 105 years old, but there is a 12-year margin around her age meaning she could be as young as 90.

The average lifespan of a wild orca is between 60 and 80 years.

The Southern Residents — despite being listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act — have some extraordinary longevity stories, including the female K7, or Lummi, who died in 2008 at the age of 98, according to the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA).

Another Southern Resident female, L25, or Ocean Sun, is thought to be 85 years old.

PWWA director Michael Harris told the SeattlePi blog that researchers use an extrapolation scheme to estimate ages of orcas.

“Wild orca researchers use an extrapolation scheme to estimate ages of orcas. It’s a well-accepted technique used by both U.S. and Canadian scientists, based on the fact that offspring stay close to their mothers all their lives.”

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