For endangered Orcas, it's the Hunger Games
For the past few years, Idaho’s Snake River salmon and Puget Sound orcas have become linked in the decades-long battle over the fate of the four lower Snake River Dams and whether they should be removed to save the fish.
The orcas, specifically the southern resident killer whales, are in trouble and have been for some time. That came into sharp focus this summer when a member of the J-pod, a subgroup of the Puget Sound orcas, carried her dead calf for 17 days and attracted worldwide media attention.
The whales face food shortages, noise from vessels in the busy Puget Sound and the accumulation of pollutants in their body fat. All three are linked, but what it boils down to is the whales are not getting enough to eat, and what they eat is mostly salmon.
That is where salmon that spawn in the Snake River Basin come in. The whales prefer chinook salmon and feed on a number of different stocks up and down the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada.