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Seattle’s Salish Wildlife Watch: A WhatsApp Group for Orca Sightings

The real-time updates have led to remarkable encounters with these magnificent marine mammals, sparking awe and wonder among locals.

Peter Bates, a group member, described his thrilling experience of spotting orcas after receiving a notification on his phone. He quickly made his way to the shoreline, where he witnessed the orcas’ graceful passage through the water, just yards away. The sense of wonder and joy that these encounters bring to people is evident.

Salish Wildlife Watch is the brainchild of Kersti Muul, a biologist and wildlife advocate. Her goal is not only to share the excitement of encountering orcas but also to inspire people to learn about and protect these animals. Muul originally created the group chat to streamline her communication about orca sightings, gathering tips from fellow whale-watchers and reliable sources.

The group’s name, “Salish Wildlife Watch,” pays homage to the Salish Sea, a network of inland waters between Washington State and British Columbia. Although Muul initially intended to include alerts for various animals, orcas quickly became the stars of the show.

Muul sees the charismatic orcas as ambassadors for raising awareness about the challenges the ecosystem faces, including dwindling salmon populations, noise pollution from vessels interfering with hunting, and boat collisions. The orcas’ presence in the region is a humbling experience for Muul, who seeks to promote equity, inspiration, and advocacy, recognizing that inspiration is a powerful catalyst for people to get involved in conservation efforts.

The Salish Sea, carved by retreating glaciers, has been the ancestral home of orcas, revered by the indigenous Coast Salish people. Over the years, visits by different orca populations, including “Bigg’s” or “transient” orcas and southern “resident” orcas, have increased, offering people the opportunity to witness these incredible creatures. The group chat also serves as a platform to monitor and prevent human interference with the whales, ensuring their safety and minimizing disturbances.

In an era where digital connectivity intertwines with nature, efforts like Salish Wildlife Watch bring communities together to celebrate the wonders of the natural world. This WhatsApp group is just one example of the many initiatives that use technology to bridge the gap between the digital realm and the beauty of nature, such as Orca Network and Puget Sound Whale Sightings, which share sightings on their Facebook pages.

These initiatives not only contribute to the enjoyment of nature but also play a vital role in conservation and the protection of these remarkable creatures, inspiring people to cherish and preserve the unique ecosystems they call home.

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