• killer whale;
  • Orcinus orca;
  • habitat use;
  • distribution;
  • Alaska;
  • Prince William Sound;
  • foraging behavior


Thirteen years of encounter data (1984–1996) were used to examine killer whale distribution within Prince William Sound, Alaska. Four patterns of area use were found, which comprised differences between resident pods and transient groups and differences among resident groups. Resident pods frequented large open passages, while transient groups used the narrow passages and bays in the southwest. This dichotomy likely reflects resident use of salmon and transient use of pinniped prey resources, as well as the different foraging strategies required for these prey types. Four resident pods (AB, AI, AJ, and AN) used Knight Island Passage more than other areas of the Sound; two (AE and AK) used all areas of the Sound more evenly. Use of the Sound by the AT1 transient whales declined in the latter part of the study. Nearshore foraging for pinniped prey by the AT1 transient whales was more common in areas where these whales spend a disproportionate amount of time, suggesting that these areas were critical foraging habitat for them. No similar pattern emerged for Open-water Foraging for cetaceans by AT1 whales, nor for foraging by the resident whales.