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Washington State Marine Mammal

Orca Orcinus orca Adopted: April 14, 2005
Washington state marine mammal
Washington State Marine Mammal: Orca
Photographs, posters, prints

OLYMPIA – April 14, 2005 – Gov. Christine Gregoire today signed a bill making the orca the official marine mammal of Washington. It was a happy ending to a civics lesson that began two years ago in a second-grade classroom in Oak Harbor, Wash.

In January 2003, library assistant Peggy Mihalik at Crescent Harbor Elementary School noticed that Washington did not have a marine mammal listed as a recognized state symbol. She approached second-grade teacher Bonnie Alanis to ask if her class would like to propose legislation that would recognize the orca as the state's newest symbol.

The project became a good blend of students' studies of whales, people, communities and government – especially how laws are made. Students collected more than 1,000 signatures from adults throughout Western Washington applauding the children's efforts in promoting the first "Orca Bill."

Washington state marine mammal
Washington State Marine Mammal: Orca
Photograph: Robert Pittman
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

A bill was introduced in January 2004, but time ran out in that legislative session before it was passed. The bill (HB 1759) was reintroduced in this year's Legislature by prime sponsor Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and co-sponsors Chris Strow, R-Clinton, and Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and subsequently was passed by both houses. Several second- and third-graders from Crescent Harbor, as well as some parents and educators, joined the governor for today's signing ceremony in Olympia.

"I am proud of the efforts of my former students, current students and of all the community members who chose to support this second-grade project," said Alanis. "And the legislators have helped Crescent Harbor second-graders participate in a lesson that will touch their memories for a lifetime."

The orca joins these other official state symbols: apple as the fruit, steelhead trout as the fish, American Goldfinch as the bird, "Alki" as the motto, coast rhododendron as the flower, "The Evergreen State" as the nickname, western hemlock as the tree, "Washington, My Home" as the song, petrified wood as the gem, square dance as the dance, "President Washington" as the ship, "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On" as the folk song, bluebunch wheatgrass as the grass, green darner dragonfly as the insect, and Columbian Mammoth as the fossil. 1


1 The State of Washington. Office of Governor Christine Gregoire. Gov. Gregoire signs bill designating orca as official state marine mammal. Olympia: The State of Washington, 2005. Web.
The State of Washington. Washington State Legislature. Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Olympia: The State of Washington, 2007. Web.

Additional Information

Washington state Marine Mammal
Washington State marine mammal: Orca
Photograph: Dr. Brandon Southall, NMFS/OPR

Killer Whale (Orca) Orcinus orca: National Geographic Society.

Orcinus orca Killer Whale: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals.

Killer Whale, Orcinus orca: Canada's aquatic environments.

Killer Whale (Orcinus orca): National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Office of Protected Resources.

Orcinus orca killer whale: The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web.

Orcinus orca - (Linnaeus, 1758), Killer Whale: A network connecting science with conservation - NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.

Orcinus orca (Linnaeus, 1758): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

State marine mammals: Complete list of official state Marine Mammals from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Washington state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Davy's Dream: A Young Boy's Adventure with Wild Orca Whales

Davy's Dream: A Young Boy's Adventure with Wild Orca Whales, by Paul Owen Lewis. 64 pages. Publisher: Tricycle Press (April 1, 1999) Reading level: Ages 5+.

A boy named Davy dreams of sailing among a pod of wild Orca, "killer" whales. The dream is so real he feels he has become a part of their world.

Excited by his vision, he sets out to to realize his dream. He is not afraid even though he has been warned that the so-called "wolves of the sea" are not tame whales.

As Davy embarks on his adventure he finds that in their frolic the wild whales don't notice him. Saddened, he returns to shore and falls asleep dreaming of how he wants to be included in the whale's play. Then he has his dream again, but this time something is different! Davy learns that dreams pursued can come true!

Siwiti: A Whale's Story

Siwiti: A Whale's Story, by Alexandra Morton. 47 pages. Publisher: Orca Book Publishers (January 1, 1990) Reading level: Ages 8+.

Siwiti is the story of the first year in the life of a killer whale born in the waters off the west coast of Canada. Surrounded and protected by her family, the little orca's life is full of excitement and adventure.

Siwiti explores the inlets and channels of the Pacific Northwest. Chasing salmon, playing with harbour seals and Dall porpoises, escaping from aggressive sea lions, Siwiti learns the do's and don't's of undersea life. As curious as any child, she also watches the humans who seem so intent on observing her and her family.

Killer Whales of the World: Natural History and Conservation

Killer Whales of the World: Natural History and Conservation, by Dr. Robin W. Baird. 132 pages. Publisher: Voyageur Press (August 31, 2006)

Dr. Robin W. Baird, a whale scientist also involved in the release program for Keiko (the Free Willy star), distills hundreds of scientific studies into a reader-friendly text accessible by both children and adults. Chapters on foraging and feeding, behavior, and sounds and senses explore the basic biology of killer whales, and several chapters discuss research on and conservation of the species. The text concludes with a look at human interactions with killer whales, which can be both harmful and beneficial to the species. Excellent distribution maps and information on where to view whales round out a nice look at a popular species.

Togetherness is Our Home: An Orca's Journey through Life

Togetherness is Our Home: An Orca's Journey through Life, by Dr. Astrid M. van Ginneken. 406 pages. Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (April 4, 2007)

Think of orcas, and you may instantly imagine the killer whales prowling the high seas in search of prey. Yet, these predators are much more than mindless killing machines, and are in fact, complex creatures that feel and love within the groups they live. Deeply fascinated by these remarkable animals, Dr. Astrid M. van Ginneken has been studying orcas for over 20 years. Determined to capture their world, she wrote the novel Togetherness is Our Home.