An orca called Granny, officially known as J2, was estimated to be over 100 years old and was last seen on 12 October 2016.
Granny and her pod belonged to an orca population living in the Salish Sea, close to Vancouver and Seattle, and have been studied by researchers since the 1970s.
“She swam north in Haro Strait far ahead of the others,” said Ken Balcomb, executive director and principle investigator for the Center for Whale Research. “Perhaps other dedicated whale-watchers have seen her since then, but by year’s end she is officially missing … and with regret we now consider her deceased.”
As a post-reproductive female, Granny played a vital role in the pod by guiding and taking care of other females’ calves.
The J pod, to which Granny belonged, now has only 24 individuals.
The wider local population of orcas is estimated to be 78 (as of 31 December 2016).