© Five Star Whale Watching/Katie Smith. Image — A large male Bigg’s Killer Whale is seen surfacing near its family southwest of Victoria this afternoon.
Family of Bigg’s Killer Whales
We had a fantastic afternoon today , experiencing some remarkable creatures. To begin the trip, we headed southwest of Victoria into Juan de Fuca Strait.
While in the Strait, we encountered whales! They were Bigg’s, or Transient, orca whales. There were three individuals in this family (pod) which included a mother and her two adult sons. Orcas have matriarchal social groupings, where mature females are dominant. Male, and usually female, offspring will stay with their mothers their entire lives.
We could identify the adult males by the height of their dorsal fins. Mature male orcas have dorsal fins that may reach up to 6 feet in total height! The males were also larger than their mother; some male orcas have even been recorded to reach lengths of over 30 feet. All orcas have a unique, individual saddle-patch of white or grey beneath this fin, which is often used as a tool for identification (see above image).
It is always amazing to see these top predators while together in their natural habitat, and all on board were thrilled.
Our trip was not over however, and we decided to make a stop at an area known as Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. This area can be frequented by Bigg’s whales such as the ones we saw, due to the pinniped prey in the area. Bigg’s orcas feed on seals and Sea Lions, and even porpoises and dolphins. Here, we were able to spot large, male Steller Sea Lions!
We had a great day today being able to show our guests several important animals in the Salish Sea’s ecosystems, and we headed back to Victoria with a memorable encounter.
To view more images from today’s trip, click on the link below: