Washington

This is no fish tale — we have more new neighbors from California in the Puget Sound

Bottlenose dolphin swim alongside a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico miles off the coast of Panama City, Fla. A group of five to six bottlenose dolphins that have been sighted in the Puget Sound regularly since September 2017. They have migrated from their normal home in California to the cooler Washington waters.
Bottlenose dolphin swim alongside a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico miles off the coast of Panama City, Fla. A group of five to six bottlenose dolphins that have been sighted in the Puget Sound regularly since September 2017. They have migrated from their normal home in California to the cooler Washington waters. Jay Reeves

Some days it seems everybody is trying to escape California for the beauty of Washington state. Can't say as we blame them.

But the latest group of California transplants caught experts off guard. A group of five to six bottlenose dolphins that have been sighted in the Puget Sound regularly since September 2017, according to a story on KING5 Thursday.

Dolphins are not commonly seen in the colder waters of the Puget Sound, according to a Cascadia Research post about the group in November.

Since September, the group has been spotted and photographed in the Puget Sound by members of the Orca Network, Orca Conservancy and whale watching company Island Adventures, in addition to the public.

Cascadia Research was able to confirm that the group is part of the California coastal stock, and with the help of photos, they were able to work with researchers in California to match the unique markings on the animals' dorsal fins with dolphins in that area.

One of the females was identified as "Miss," a well-known bottlenose that was first observed in southern California in the 1983. She later moved to Monterrey Bay in the 1990s and the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012. This is the first time, according to Cascadia Research, that an individual bottlenose has appeared in the Puget Sound and could be traced to a specific population.

A second female has been identified as "Stump," and she also is more than 1,000 miles away from her home in California, according to a March 13 post by Cascadia Research. She was seen in the central Sound near Tacoma.

According to dolphins-world.com, bottlenose dolphins tend to live close to the coastline. While migration is a big part of their lives, as they travel to find food, they typically prefer tropical, subtropical and warm waters to the chilly temperatures generally found in the Puget Sound, making the appearance of this group so shocking.

Cascadia Research is asking for photographs and any reports of the dolphins in inland waters, as they try to understand more about why this group is now here. Sightings should be emailed to Dave Anderson at danderson@cascadiaresearach.org.

For the time being, the rest of us will enjoy our new neighbors and try to make them feel welcome.

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