March 10- Orcas on a Hunt

© Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. Image — The T137 family was seen together while they hunted a Harbour seal, on the east coast of Lopez Island, WA.

Today was a very unique day spent exploring the Salish Sea! We had a fantastic encounter with some amazing killer whales, or orcas.

We began our journey by heading east into Haro Strait, to an area just off the community of Oak Bay, Victoria. We were searching for animals in the network of small islands known as The Chain Islets. This is also a common haul-out area for pinnipeds; a favourite prey for mammal-eating orcas!

We then traveled farther east to locate any possible animals in the area; and our search was rewarded! Off the east coast of Lopez Island (a U.S. Gulf island in the San Juan county), we came across some active orca whales. These were mammal-eating orcas, a type that feeds primarily on Harbour seals, Sea lions and porpoise in the area. They were the family known as the T137’s.

We were fortunate to observe these animals as they exhibited lots of active surface behavior. We witnessed breaching (see above image), along with tail-slapping, spy-hopping and tail-lobbing. These are all thrilling behaviours to watch in such powerful and remarkable animals as these predators.

Apart from their exuberant behaviours, we could also see the orcas had successfully completed a hunt by the remnants of their prey. Seagulls were see feeding on the remainders of a Harbour seal the orcas had preyed on, killed and eaten.

On our trip we were excited to see not only these orcas and seabirds, but some large and impressive Sea Lions lying out on Whale Rocks near the San Juan islands- a frequent haul-out area for these marine mammals.

It was an incredibly exciting day witnessing some top predators in action, and the beauty and diversity of the Salish Sea.

To view more images from today’s trip, click on the link below:

March 10th- Orcas in Lopez Pass

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