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Orca Whale

Washington State Marine Mammal

Mother orca whale with calf marine mammal symbol of Washington state. Location: Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Narrows Under the Narrows Bridge Photo by Mike Charest / Flickr (use permitted with attribution).

Official Marine Mammal Symbol of Washington State

Washington designated the orca whale (Orcinus orca) as the official state marine mammal in 2005 due to the research and persuasion of second-graders from Crescent Harbor Elementary School in Oak Harbor, Washington.  All State Mammals

This symbol is intended to promote orca awareness and to encourage protection of the natural marine habitat. Pods of orcas migrate annually through Puget Sound and many people visit Washington state to watch them. The orca whale is also a significant symbol for Native American culture.

Orca Whale Facts

Orcas are toothed black and white whales - they hunt everything from fish to walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, squid, sea turtles, sharks, and even other kinds of whales. An orca whale may eat about 500 pounds of food a day (orcas are also called "killer whales" and "wolves of the sea").

The largest of all dolphins, male orca whales average 19-22 feet in length (females average 16-19 feet). Male orcas weigh an average of 8,000 to 12,000 pounds (females 3,000 to 8,000 pounds). They are able to reach speeds up to 30 miles an hour and have good eyesight both underwater and above the surface. Orca whales live and hunt in cooperative pods or family groups; they work as a team using many innovative hunting techniques.

Female orcas tend to live longer than males (females can live to be 90 years old, while males live about 50 years). Orca females average one birth every ten years to an eight-foot long, 400 pound calf (some may give birth every three to five years). An orca's only enemy is human beings.

Conservation status

Orca whales are threatened and protected.