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Old Thom (also infrequently spelled Old Tom - not to be confused with the Australian orca of the same name) is a solitary adult Northwest Atlantic killer whale. He has been sighted off the coast of northern New England and Eastern Canada - mostly in/near the Bay of Fundy - since at least 2010. He is alive as of 2022.

Description

According to Orca Conservancy, Old Thom is an extremely large bull at 30 ft. in length and an estimated 8 tons in weight (16000 lb.) [1]. He has a distinctive notch on the trailing edge of his dorsal fin, at about a quarter way down from the tip. Like most large adult male orcas, his fluke tips are curved. He appears to have an overbite.

Although his exact diet is unknown, Old Thom likely consumes fish (as opposed to marine mammals). Tony LaCasse of the New England Aquarium stated in 2016 that he has never been seen eating seals by the aquarium's researchers [2]. According to a 2022 comment by Orca Conservancy, Old Thom has been observed eating cod, pollock, and hake - all common groundfish [3]. They also state that he will eat discarded fish from trawlers. Fascinatingly, the organization stated, "we have fishermen friends who work in the Bay of Fundy that swear Old Thom eats sharks and might be following the shark migration".

Old Thom is often seen in the company of Atlantic white-sided dolphins, with whom he appears to have an affiliative relationship [4]. Unusually, he has never been seen with other orcas.

He is known to approach vessels, lobtail, pec slap, and breach.

Sightings

The first documented sightings of Old Thom occurred around 2009 [5] and August 2010 during New England Aquarium surveys of Roseway Basin, Nova Scotia [6]. He was already an adult when first seen. Orca Conservancy has even earlier records, dating back to 2008.

Old Thom visited Chatham in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on July 4th, 2016[2]. He visited Chatham again on June 9th, 2019, bringing with him a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins (although the news article appears to misidentify them as porpoises)[7].

On September 17, 2016, Old Thom was seen with 20-30 Atlantic white-sided dolphins off Brier Island, Nova Scotia [4].

Captain Brett Hebb of the Atlantic Mist filmed Old Thom itching himself on the ship's anchor warps the morning of November 2, 2016, 17 nautical miles northwest of Petite Passage, Bay of Fundy [1].

In late 2019, Old Thom was feared dead in an entanglement [8]. However, he turned up in August of 2020 off southern New Brunswick and northern Maine, seemingly unharmed.

In May of 2022, Old Thom gained national media coverage after being documented by numerous observers off Cape Cod. On May 15, 2022, Jerry Leeman captured footage of Thom near their vessel [9]. Fisherman Asher Molyneaux spotted Old Thom off Hyannis, Massachusetts, while out scalloping that same day [10].

References

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