DISTRIBUTION OF KILLER WHALE PODS IN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA 1984–1996

Authors

  • D. Scheel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Prince William Sound Science Center, Box 705, Cordova, Alaska 99574, U. S. A.
      Please direct correspondence to: David Scheel, Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, U. S. A.; e-mail: dscheel@alaskapacific.edu.
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  • Craig O. Matkin,

    1. North Gulf Oceanic Society, Box 15244, Homer, Alaska 99603, U. S. A.
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  • Eva Saulitis

    1. North Gulf Oceanic Society, Box 15244, Homer, Alaska 99603, U. S. A.
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Please direct correspondence to: David Scheel, Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, U. S. A.; e-mail: dscheel@alaskapacific.edu.

Abstract

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.

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