These 5 Whales You Can Spot from the Washington State Coast

Washington State is one of the best places to see these 5 species of whales and now is almost the best time of year to start looking.

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The Best Time of Year to Spot Whales in Washington State

You can see lots of different kinds of whales off the Washington coast but the best time of year to spot some of them is now!

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Most whales are migratory because no one area can sustain them throughout the year. Washington does have one exception to this rule with 3 local resident orca pods that stay around the Washington coast all year long.

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Why Washington State?

Each type of whale travels along the Washington coast for different reasons. Orcas feed on the salmon that arrive around the end of May but can be seen most of the year. Humpback whales love the smelt and herring that arrive late in the spring. Even though Orca and Humpback whales are the most likely spotted off the coast of Washington, there are a total of 5 different species that can be seen.

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Types of Whales You Can See in Washington State

These are the 5 different species of whales that can be seen off the coast of Washington.

1- Grey Whales

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Grey whales are one of the species of whales you can see off the coast of Washington State. The grey whales off our coast will be one of two genetic groups of whales, the Eastern North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks. The best time to see Grey whales is between the months of March to June each season. There are over 18,000 Grey whales that migrate past the Washington coastline to their breeding grounds in the north.

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Some grey whales make their way into the Puget Sound area to eat and rest in the calm waters during their long migration. If you happen to see a grey whale, they ask you use this wildlife reporting form to help track them. The Western North Pacific stock or group is considered endangered by the Federal Government.

2- Minke Whales

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Minke whales are also seen off the Washington coast for part of the year. These whales are also seen in the early spring during March and April. Only around 600 whales are known to live on the west coast of the United States. Minke whales can reach the age of 50 before they die naturally in the wild.

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They are the smallest baleen whale but still can reach over 35 feet long and weigh over 10 tons according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are a highly protected species. If you happen to see a Minke whale, they ask you use this wildlife reporting form to help track them.

3- Fin Whales

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These amazing animals are the 2nd largest whale you will see. Fin whales can reach lengths of 85 feet and weigh over 80 tons when fully grown. They estimate around 9,000 Fin whales live off the US coastline and the population is seeing strong growth.

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That amount has grown from an estimated 3,000 whales in 2008 according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. You can spot a fin whale by the unique blow hole and long slender body.  If you happen to see a Fin whale off the Washington coast, they ask you to use this wildlife reporting form to help the WDFW to track them.

4- Humpback Whales

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Humpback whales are large baleen whales that grow up to 60 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons. These whales have been featured in multiple movies like Fathom and Star Trek 4 The Voyage Home. Humpback whales are probably most famous for their songs or communication between whales and for their large unique pectoral fins.

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They feed on krill and small fish between May and October off the Washington State coast but are mostly seen between July and September. If you happen to see a Humpback whale off the Washington coast, they ask you to use this wildlife reporting form to help the WDFW to track them.

5- Orca

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Known to be the most dangerous predator in the ocean, Orca or Killer Whales call the Washington State coastline home all year. There are 3 different ecotypes of orca that live off the Washington State coastline according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife: fish-eating residents, mammal-eating transients (or Bigg’s), and offshores. They are the largest member of the dolphin family and also an apex predator.

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From May to September near the San Juan Islands, you can usually see one of 3 main Orca pods, J, K, or L pods. The Transient population travels along the coast from California to Alaska and has largely grown in numbers because of a strong food source. The offshore orca are much more of a mystery to scientists because they are studied much less.

They are estimated to be a stable population of around 300 whales according to the Killer Whale | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.  If you happen to see Orcas off the Washington coast, they ask you to use this wildlife reporting form to help the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to track them.

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