Sightings of Risso’s dolphins in southern Puget Sound – 30 December 2011

Kim Merriman reported a sighting to Cascadia of some unidentified dolphin/whales at the entrance to Eld Inlet on 30 December 2011. She was able to obtain some distant photographs of the animals, two of which are shown below. These were identified as likely juvenile Risso’s dolphins by John Calambokidis at Cascadia. Risso’s dolphins are fairly common off the Washington coast especially along the continental slope but their occurrence in Puget Sound in extremely rare and unusual. At least two previous report going back almost a month of unidentified large dolphins or small whales could have been these same animals so it is possible these have been around for a few weeks.

Southern Puget Sound has seen a previously undescribed diversity of species in 2010 and 2011. This has included the return of harbor porpoise in increasing numbers far south in the sound and sightings and strandings of more tropical southern species including Bryde’s whales, bottlenose dolphins, and a long-beaked common dolphin (who remains in the area).

Photos by Kim Merriman