Killer whales (Orcinus orca) occur in the eastern Canadian Arctic during the open-water season, but their seasonal movements in Arctic waters and overall distribution are poorly understood. During August 2009, satellite transmitters were deployed onto two killer whales in Admiralty Inlet, Baffin Island, Canada. A whale tracked for 90 days remained in Admiralty and Prince Regent Inlets from mid-August until early October, when locations overlapped aggregations of marine mammal prey species. While in Admiralty and Prince Regent Inlets, the whale traveled 96.1 ± 45.3 km day−1 (max 162.6 km day−1) and 120.1 ± 44.5 km day−1 (max 192.7 km day−1), respectively. Increasing ice cover in Prince Regent Inlet in late September and early October was avoided, and the whale left the region prior to heavy ice formation. The whale traveled an average of 159.4 ± 44.8 km day−1 (max 252.0 km day−1) along the east coast of Baffin Island and into the open North Atlantic by mid-November, covering over 5,400 km in approximately one month. This research marks the first time satellite telemetry has been used to study killer whale movements in the eastern Canadian Arctic and documents long-distance movement rarely observed in this species.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Andrews RD, Pitman RL, Balance LT (2008) Satellite tracking reveals distinct movement patterns for Type B and Type C killer whales in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Polar Biol 31:1461–1468
Breed GA, Jonsen ID, Myers RA, Bowen WD, Leonard ML (2009) Sex-specific, seasonal foraging tactics of adult grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) revealed by state-space analysis. Ecol 90:3209–3221
Dahlheim ME, Schulman-Janiger A, Black N, Ternullo R, Ellifrit D, Balcomb KC (2008) Eastern temperate North Pacific offshore killer whales (Orcinus orca): occurrences, movements, and insights into feeding ecology. Marine Mammal Sci 24:719–729
Dietz R, Heide-Jørgensen MP, Richard P, Orr J, Laidre K, Schmidt HC (2008) Movements of narwhals (Monodon monoceros) from Admiralty Inlet monitored by satellite telemetry. Polar Biol 31:1295–1306
Finley KJ (1990) Isabella Bay, Baffin Island: an important historical and present-day concentration area for the endangered bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) of the eastern Canadian Arctic. Arct 43:137–152
Finley KJ (2001) Natural history and conservation of the Greenland whale, or bowhead, in the northwest Atlantic. Arct 54:55–76
Gill PC, Thiele D (1997) A winter sighting of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in Antarctic sea ice. Polar Biol 17:401–404
Goley PD, Straley JM (1994) Attack on gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in Monterey Bay, California, by killer whales (Orcinus orca) previously identified in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Can J Zoo¨l 72:1528–1530
Guerrero-Ruiz M, García-Godos I, Urbán J (2005) Photographic match of a killer whale (Orcinus orca) between Peruvian and Mexican waters. Aquatic Mamm 31:438–441
Heide-Jørgensen MP (1988) Occurrence and hunting of killer whales in Greenland. Rit Fiskideildar 11:115–135
Higdon JW, Ferguson SH (2009) Sea ice declines causing punctuated change as observed with killer whale (Orcinus orca) sightings in the Hudson Bay region over the past century. Ecol Appl 19:1365–1375
Higdon JW, Hauser DDW, Ferguson SH (2010) Killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Canadian Arctic: distribution, prey items, group size, and seasonality. Marine Mammal Sci. Accepted 20 Oct 2010
ICES (2010) Report of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME), 12–15 April 2010, Horta, The Azores. ICES CM 2010/ACOM:24, pp 212
Jonsen ID, Mills Flemming J, Myers RA (2005) Robust state-space modelling of animal movement data. Ecol 86:2874–2880
Katona SK, Beard JA, Girton PE, Wenzel F (1988) Killer whales (Orcinus orca) from the Bay of Fundy to the equator, including the Gulf of Mexico. Rit Fiskideildar 11:205–224
Lawson J, Stevens T, Snow D (2008) Killer whales of Atlantic Canada, with particular reference to the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Research Document 2007/062, pp 16
Lowry LF, Nelson RR, Frost KJ (1987) Observations of killer whales, Orcinus orca, in western Alaska: sightings, strandings, and predation on other marine mammals. Can Field Nat 101:6–12
Mitchell E, Reeves RR (1988) Records of killer whales in the western North Atlantic, with emphasis on eastern Canadian waters. Rit Fiskideildar 11:161–193
Pitman RL, Ensor P (2003) Three forms of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in Antarctic waters. J Cetacean Res Manag 5:131–139
Reeves RR, Mitchell E (1988a) Distribution and seasonality of killer whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Rit Fiskideildar 11:136–160
Reeves RR, Mitchell E (1988b) Killer whale sightings and takes by American pelagic whalers in the North Atlantic. Rit Fiskideildar 11:7–23
Reeves R, Mitchell E, Mansfield A, McLaughlin M (1983) Distribution and migration of the bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, in the eastern North American Arctic. Arct 36:5–64
Richard PR, Stewart DB (2008) Information relevant to the identification of critical habitat for Cumberland Sound belugas (Delphinapterus leucas). Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Research Document 2008/085, pp 24
Richard PR, Heide-Jørgensen MP, Orr JR, Dietz R, Smith TG (2001) Summer and autumn movements and habitat use by belugas in the Canadian High Arctic and adjacent areas. Arct 54:207–222
Richard PR, Laake JL, Hobbs RC, Heide-Jørgensen MP, Asselin NC, Cleator H (2010) Baffin Bay narwhal population distribution and numbers: aerial surveys in the Canadian High Arctic, 2002–04. Arct 63:85–99
Sergeant DE, Fisher HD (1957) The smaller cetacea of eastern Canadian waters. J Fish Res Board Can 14:83–115
Smith TG, Martin AR (1994) Distribution and movements of belugas, Delphinapterus leucas, in the Canadian High Arctic. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 51:1653–1663
Vincent C, McConnell BJ, Ridoux V, Fedak MA (2002) Assessment of Argos location accuracy from satellite tags deployed on captive gray seals. Marine Mammal Sci 18:156–166
This research was undertaken as part of the Orcas of the Canadian Arctic (OCA) research program and benefited from discussions with L. Barrett-Lennard, E. Chmelnitsky, B. Dunn, J. Ford, P. Hall, J. Higdon, J. Orr, P. Richard, and R. Stewart during planning stages. We are grateful for the support and assistance provided by the Ikajutit Hunters and Trappers Organization, Arctic Bay, Nunavut, and thank our local guide and boat captain Nataq Levi for fieldwork assistance. Financial and/or logistical support was received from the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Nunavut Implementation Fund (NIF), the International Governance Strategy (IGS), and the ArcticNet Centre of Excellence. Tagging procedures were approved by the DFO Freshwater Institute Animal Care Committee (AUP# FWI-ACC-2009-008) and permitted under DFO License to Fish for Scientific Purposes #S-09/10-1009-NU. E. Chmelnitsky, J. Ford, C. Guinet, P. Richard, and an anonymous reviewer read earlier versions of this manuscript and provided constructive comments for its improvement.
About this article
Cite this article
Matthews, C.J.D., Luque, S.P., Petersen, S.D. et al. Satellite tracking of a killer whale (Orcinus orca) in the eastern Canadian Arctic documents ice avoidance and rapid, long-distance movement into the North Atlantic. Polar Biol 34, 1091–1096 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x